Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Agreement close for new organic farm rules

Some producers are struggling to keep up with consumer demand for organic beef and other products
Some producers are struggling to keep up with consumer demand for organic beef and other products

Sarah Collins

EU negotiators are making a last-ditch effort to agree new organic farming rules after years of wrangling over pesticide residues and Nordic greenhouses.

The rules are designed to ensure standards are the same for organic imports and across the EU, and to boost the amount of organic farm land, which stands at only 6pc of total agricultural land in the EU, and just 1pc in Ireland.

Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said "95pc" of the deal was done, but that there were particular difficulties with pesticides and greenhouses.

"We have made tremendous progress in the last few weeks and months in unlocking the logjam," said Mr Hogan. "We now have 95pc agreement on all of the articles, but some difficult ones have yet to be resolved."

There are differences between EU countries and also with the European Parliament, which wants tougher standards for organic products.

The most contentious issue continues to be whether (or at what level) to set allowable thresholds for pesticides that seep into organic products from neighbouring traditional farms or in transit.

Danish, Swedish and Finnish organic farmers are also worried about a provision in the rules that would limit growing in potted plants and demarcated beds in greenhouses. Organic farming dictates crops should be grown in soil, but Nordic farmers say bad weather forces them to use pots and beds. There are also differences over seed databases and spot checks.

Malta's agriculture minister Roderick Galdes, who is steering the talks, said he hoped to make progress during a closed-door meeting tomorrow.

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It is also a big week for EU climate targets and fertiliser rules, both of which are up for votes in the European Parliament committees.

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