The European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming (EU Commission 2004, COM(2004)415 final) introduces the basic tools for the European-wide growth of the organic sector. Action 6 is connecting the Action Plan to the instruments of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and proposes full use of the Rural Development programmes in order to help organic farming in the Member States.
Thе enforcement of Action 6 of the Organic Action Plan requires reference to all Member States' Rural Development programmes. This reference should be organized at the level of basic discussions on the programme after through determining the aims for the execution of the activities in the organic sector in the Member States (regions) and finally, through finding the way to reach these aims by specific measures and a substantial budget for the sector.
This budget is confined, because the prevailing 1st pillar payments of the CAP claim that a part of two-thirds of the total EU agricultural budget represents national funding and in addition - co-financing is included. Thus, the Rural Development programmes devoted to organic farming have to undercut with a lot of measures decreasing the resources support for the sector. This will happen if the programme does not provide a set of measures initiated to support organic agriculture. The major parts of the programme put aims on the further execution of organic farming. These aims are realized by keeping the existing field area, increasing the number of farms, working out a product scale, and enhancing product quality by supporting processing and marketing projects.
In the course of executing Action 6, the Member States and regions can be separated in three classes:
A) Group of Member States' programmes lacking in their review and declaratory
B) Group of Member States bounding their view and vindication for some measures to the adequate Community documents and in this way - to the EU Organic Action Plan.
C) Group of Member States that has put organic farming as a priority for the Rural Development programme.
Thus, treating the Organic Action Plan and settling organic farming as a priority, the last two classes can be accepted as Member States implementing Action 6. Anyway, this does not certainly guarantee the programme quality regarding the organic farming.
The Rural development measures are allocated along three thematic axes:
An advantage for organic farms or projects is proposed only in a several programmes in Europe.
The analysis reflecting stipulations in Action 6 of the ongoing national and regional Rural Development programmes indicates that most Member States do not or only partly are carrying out Action 6. In fact just few of the Member States possess opportunities to help organic farming to be used and can be considered enough performed.
Thus, the basic features for adequate execution of Action 6 of the European Organic Action Plan within the national and regional Rural Development programmes are listed in Table 1.:
Table 1. Basic features for adequate execution of Action 6 of the European Organic Action Plan
|Activities||Recommendations for realisation|
|Larger share of 2nd pillar budget in CAP budget in the Member States (especially in „old“ Member States)||Next programming period|
|Effective use of Rural Development budget with targeted use for the organic sector by defining ambitious aims and delivering appropriate budgets for reaching the aims.||Current programming period|
|Effective support in agri-environmental programmes (no programme without organic measure, for conversion and maintenance)||Next programming period|
|Defining the organic farming measure as the top-level measure in the programme, with a considerable gap in the level of support to other measures.||Current programming period|
|No discrimination for organic farmers in agri-environmental measures, e.g. lower support level for organic land area in the same measure, maximum support level per hectare/per farm too limited to give incentive to conversion to organic farming||Current programming period|
|Setting priority for organic projects and farmers in Axis 1, Axis 3 and Axis 4 (LEADER) measures to support and develop the organic sector from «field to fork».||Current programming period|
The analysis of the data showed an evaluation of all the Member States' and regional Rural Development programmes. It is made considering the budgets for the organic sector, and serves as a basis for new Organic Action Plan. It also outlines the performance of reform of the CAP for future Rural Development programmes development.
The European Commission have issued recommendations to the Member States for optimal exploitation of all instruments available to support organic farming within their Rural Development programmes. It is advising the development of national or regional Action Plans to be used as an approach for this exploitation. The main focus in these action plans should be put on:
The development of the Organic Action Plan, The European Rural Development Fund for the period has been established together with the EU Community strategic guidelines for rural development.
For Axis 2 measures - chapter 3.2 of these strategic guidelines a recommendation has been issued that stresses upon "consolidation of the contribution of organic farming", because "organic farming represents a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture. In this respect, its contribution to environmental and animal welfare objectives could be further reinforced".
Additionally, in the course of development of the national strategies the member States were advised to consider the EU level strategies: "In working out their national strategies, Member States should ensure that synergies between and within the axes are maximised and potential contradictions avoided. Where appropriate, they may develop integrated approaches. They will also wish to reflect on how to take into account other EU-level strategies, such as the Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming, ..."
Although the application of the above mentioned instruments supports the organic farming and the implementation of Action 6 of the Organic Action Plan, the quality of this support varied considerably and needs evaluation. The evaluation and the potential obstacles for further development of the sector are defined and performed through the measures of the Rural Development programmes. In fact the evaluation is necessary to analyze whether the European Commission was successful with one of the most crucial actions of its Organic Action Plan.
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi-ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.