Schmidt: We need a fresh start for the EU Organic Farming Regulation
In the debate on the revision of the EU Organic Farming Regulation in the German Bundestag on 16 October 2014, Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt clearly committed himself to organic farming in Germany.
Schmidt stated that the era of conflict between conventional and organic farming was over, and that both forms of farming were needed. He added that the organic sector was a sunrise industry. He said that the sector was recording above-average growth rates and had recently achieved an annual turnover of approx. EUR 7.5 billion in Germany. These parameters testify to the industry's success.
He criticised the complete overhaul of the Organic Farming Basic Regulation that is planned by the EU Commission. He said that the proposed massive changes would present significant obstacles to the organic farming sector. He went on to say that they would rashly do away with necessary flexibility arrangements and introduce separate threshold levels for residues in organic foodstuffs. He stated that this was all fraught with problems. Schmidt said: "This Commission draft will weaken rather than strengthen organic farming and we cannot let that happen!"
The Minister called for a targeted and problem-oriented further development of the legislation. "The legal requirements must continue to be achievable and provide a stable and reliable foundation for a healthy further development of the sector. My aim is not only to enable organic farms to continue to produce. I would like to see more organic farms!"
He also made it clear that he would ultimately also be prepared to reject the current proposal in its entirety. If there were to be no improvements in the existing draft, "we would need to make a fresh start altogether. I will not help flog a dead horse!"
Federal Minister Schmidt pointed out the strong political support for organic farming. The ruling coalition, for example, will continue to grant attractive premiums to assist the conversion and maintenance of organic farming. In recent years, premium rates under the Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection (GAK) have been steadily raised. It has been decided to increase premiums by almost 25 % for those opting to remain actively engaged in the organic farming sector in the 2013 to 2015 period. Schmidt also mentioned the support for the BÖLN programmes (Federal Programmes for Organic Farming and Other Forms of Sustainable Agriculture) and the fight against excessive bureaucracy in Brussels. "Organic farming needs to remain practicable and economically sound – I will campaign for this both in Berlin and in Brussels!"
Schmidt said that he intended to develop a strategy plan with the organic farming associations in order to strengthen the organic farming sector. "I do not make policies with disregard for the sector. I make policies with the sector!"