New Organic Action Plan: Focus on research & innovation
The new Organic Action Plan (OAP) published at the end of March 2021 recognises that research will be key for achieving the Farm to Fork strategy’s objectives. At least 30% of the budget for research and innovation (R&I) actions in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas are to be dedicated to topics specific to or relevant for organic.
Support through the Common Agricultural Policy…
To support implementation, the new OAP foresees mobilisation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Financial support for organic will continue through rural development commitments, with an additional stream of funding through Eco-schemes. CAP support will also include technical assistance and exchange of best practices and innovations in organic. Farm advisory services will be strengthened to promote relevant knowledge exchange, notably as part of Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS).
… and Horizon Europe
Organic farming is knowledge intensive. To make it even more sustainable and productive, the Commission intends to dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation (R&I) actions in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector. Specifically, this would be 30% of the next calls related to Intervention Area 3 ‘Agriculture, forestry and rural areas’ of Cluster 6 of Horizon Europe. Among others, research shall cover changing farmers’ and consumers’ behaviours, increased crop yields, genetic biodiversity and alternatives to contentious products.
The Commission equally foresees to strengthen the coordination of national organic food R&I programmes and provide new opportunities through the Mission on Soil health and food (part of Horizon Europe) and the new partnerships, in particular those on agroecology and food systems. The dissemination of R&I results will be fostered through EIP-AGRI and AKIS to promote a general increase of organic in all Member States.
Assessment of TP Organics: The pros of the Organic Action Plan
TP Organics welcomes this timely roadmap to reach the 25% target and transition towards more sustainable food and farming systems by providing Member States with the tools to leverage the potential of organic farming. Involving national, regional and local actors is vital for actions related to public procurement and the promotion and implementation of bio-districts. National capitals should implement the OAP through their national CAP Strategic Plans. Proper support through competent advisory services as well as capacity building along the supply chain are crucial for full conversion to organic practices rather than mere input substitution as well as to avoid reversion to conventional farming. It is time to properly reward organic farmers as well as conventional farmers transitioning to organic for the benefits they deliver to nature and society, and to properly fund farm advisory systems geared towards organic and other agroecological practices.
And the cons of the Organic Action Plan
However, while the foreseen strengthening of advisory services as part of AKIS and dedicating 30% of the next calls related to Cluster 6 of Horizon Europe (Intervention Area 3 ‘Agriculture, forestry and rural areas’) to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector is welcome, regrettably, TP Organics and CORE Organic are not explicitly mentioned. As officially recognised European Technology Platform bringing together researchers and practitioners, TP Organics should have been acknowledged in the OAP for its expertise regarding the knowledge needs and research priorities of the organic sector, as it was in the 2014-2020 OAP. Dedicated support to CORE Organic in the OAP would have allowed the network to continue its activities in terms of alignment and joint funding of R&I, thereby also helping coordinate R&I investments in the organic sector by Member States to ensure a balanced development of the sector across the EU.
TP Organics is the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming. IFOAM Organics Europe is a founding member and hosts its secretariat.
This communication is co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The sole responsibility for this communication lies with IFOAM Organics Europe. EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.