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Historical Overview of The Eu’s Organic Farming Policy

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After World War II Europe was devastated and was suffering a severe food shortage. In the Netherlands Sicco Mansholt was instantly appointed as Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in order to avoid another famine. His fundamental goal was to feed the world, through excellent cooperation within Europe that would secure global food supply. Mansholt succeeded to implement a Common Agriculture Policy, although this had several downsides that stared with food surpluses. Later, organic farming policies were implemented to protect consumer rights although this has discontent among farmers around Europe. This report is written in order to provide an historical overview of Europe’s Organic Farming Policies.

Sicco Mansholt got the offer in 1945 of becoming Minister of Food Supply, Agriculture and Fishery in the Netherlands, he had to organize that the Dutch people had enough food to eat and avoid another famine as winter period of 1944-1945. The first years that Mansholt worked as minister were taken up with the task to purchase food from abroad. In 1948, the Marshall Plan aid from the United States puts an end to the time of shortage. Mansholt was working forward to establish an agricultural arrangement intended to raise productivity and improve the lives of farmer’s in the Netherlands. He implemented a pricing scheme that offered farmers guaranteed rates for their produce. Furthermore, Mansholt set minimum prices for the most essential agricultural products and he implemented taxes on import together with support for exports. Nonetheless, the support of the government was not intended to bolster unprofitable farms (Missel, p. 10). After the Second World War Mansholt saw the need of modernising the agricultural sector in order to prevent future food shortages and to warrant efficiency. The landscapes of small farms gave place to a more efficacious productions machine through modernisation of technologies, rationalisation and mechanization, this was spread through public information campaigns. These public information campaigns were launched by the government as a modernization project trough the introduction of agricultural innovations and diversify the way of life on farms and in villages.

Mansholt’s objective was to build up Europe’s integration by a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Therefore, in 1950, Mansholt set up a plan for a common market for agricultural producing in Europe with a supranational governing structure. Although, this plan turned out to be unreasonable for the time being and did not accomplish. Some years later in 1957 the European Economic Community was created by the Treaty of Rome that worked towards European integration and economic growth through trade. Furthermore, it created a common market based on the free movement of goods, services, people, and goods (European Commission, N.D.). Mansholt was appointed as Commissioner for Agriculture in the European Commission in 1958, this gave him the opportunity to establish his plan some years ago on the Common Agricultural Policy. The treaty of Rome (article 43) has established policy objectives which have been incorporated in the CAP. First of all, the principal goals are freedom of movement of farm products between the six member states. This means allowing products to be bought and sold as freely as possible throughout the EEC. Secondly, agricultural prices must be at the same level in al six member states, this can be accomplished through financial support measures by the European Community. Finally, trade with third world countries must be regulated within agricultural products through a common trade policy. For example, tariffs and quotas on imports of certain goods from third countries were set to improve the productivity of agriculture. These regulations had a preparatory transition time of twelve years to allow the harmonization of national agriculture and trade policies and to set common trading regulations for several farming groups.

In the early years of the European Community structural issues were worsened by many small farms producing inefficacious and high producing costs (Dinan, 2014, p. 199). Therefore, in 1962 the CAP was implemented through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF). First of all, the EAGGF was established in order to finance internal market intervention and export subsidies and secondly it was intended for structural improvements in agriculture. However, an enormous increase in costs of the guarantee section rose up due to more commodities were organised under the CAP regulation. Furthermore, there was an increase in production which led to huge amounts of surpluses due too continuous improved technics and management, as well as favourable weather conditions (Rickard, p. 409). Budget was used for storage of surpluses and in order to dispose these stocks with the aid of export and consumption subsidies. According to the University of Cardiff (p.3), the Cap has been blamed of having created one of the most protectionist regimes in the world by subsidising EU farmers and putting restrictions on imports in this manner keeping out competition from other regions. On the other hand, the large amount of budget spent by the CAP were criticised (2013).

In 1970 the transition period of twelve years neared, although many difficulties have not yet been solved, as mentioned before the growing surpluses of production within the agriculture increased. In 1968 Sicco Mansholt recognized that there was a need of a new sustainable reform of the CAP, and therefore he established the Mansholt Plan. Mansholt stated that in order to develop the CAP around five million people should leave the agricultural sector, for these people he presented the idea of re-schooling or a retirement scheme. Furthermore, the main objectives of the Mansholt Plan were to reduce the price support, establish larger and more economic stable farms, reduce surpluses with the elimination of five million hectares out of production and lastly the improvement of marketing. Several factors such as technological advancements and price supports led to the intensification of the EU agriculture, as a result in changing crop-yields and farming practices. Furthermore, this has raised a large concern regarding environmental damages, for example, ground and water pollution and biodiversity loss due to the decline of natural habitats.

In the years of 1980 there arrived a large increase of organic food and farming in Europe, this led the authorities pay more attention to this. Higher prices were set and many beneficial aspects of the products were claimed, therefore the European Commission considered that controlling this organic sector was needed to ensure consumers protection. A directive was established as an initial proposal that would apply to each member state as how it works best for them. However, in 1991 it was implemented as an EU Regulation that is applies to all member states in their national law (IFOAM, 2009, p. 8). This European Regulation on organic farming provided a legal definition on organic farming, production rules on organic plant production and defined control and labelling requirements. These rules are important in order to guard consumers and organic farmers.

In 1993 the Regulation on organic farming came into fore, which also had an impact in countries outside of Europe. The European Community is a large importer from outside the EU, these exporters too the EU had to conform to the new organic farming Regulation as well. This Regulation became thus a criterion for worldwide organic farming. According to IFOAM (2009), pressure for organic farmers was rising up after the Regulation was put into force. There was a need of support through rural development provisions. Many countries had developed plan of actions to develop and expand the organic farming sectors. Although, in order to accomplish this at European level, the European Council called on the Commission to establish a European organic action plan.

In June 2004 the Commission had launched the European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming. This was established in order to lay down the basis for policy advancement, furthermore, it gives a key vision for the commitment of organic farming to the Common Agricultural Policy. One important recommendation in the organic farming plan of action was to improve the community’s organic farming principles, in addition to other things by finishing the standards for areas that were not yet secured. This prompted to the organic regulation and adoption of the new Council Regulation on organic production and labelling to be revised in 2007. This new Regulation defines the aims, objectives and principles of organic farming and production, it regulates labelling and its control and import rules. This regulation is a legislative act and describes whether products can be marketed as organic in the EU and if the organic logo is allowed to be used (Jespersen & Campagnoni, N.D., p. 1). After the revision in 2007 the Commission did not stop with updating the Regulation, the Commission continues to improve the regulation. For example, in 2008/2009/2012 organic yeast, aquaculture and wine were implemented in the regulation. Furthermore, in 2012 an agreement between EU and US on organic standards has been made. Finally, on March 2014 the European Commission made a proposal for new organic regulation. This will apply from January 2021.

Over the years several policy areas have been addressed in the organic farming policy. First of all, according to (EC) No 834/2007, the use of GMOs is prohibited in organic production this includes in food, feed in plant protection, fertilisers, animals, soil conditioners, seeds, micro-organisms and vegetative propagating material. Secondly, organic labelling is an important policy area within organic farming. Consumers of the organic products must hereby acknowledge that the product they want to purchase has been obtained in accordance with the rules laid described in the regulation. It is not allowed to use this label if the product is not produced in accordance with the regulation or for GMOs. Furthermore, in order to protect the EUs consumers, it is important to regulate trade with third world countries regarding organics. Therefore, organic products from third world countries must comply with EUs regulation, all operators must be controlled by authorities and operators must be able to provide documentary evidence.

The European agricultural and organic policies make also a lot of discontent among farmers in Europe. For example, in the first months of 2019 protests rose up in Poland. Farmers were asking for restrictions on food imports and compensation for the low prices for farm produce.

Most of the organic products in Poland are imported because it is cheaper. The Polish farmers are often too small to produce large amounts of products and their organic process is underdeveloped. The farmers feel threatened by the EU established open market policies and the cut backs in the CAP.

Reference list

  • ARC (March 5, 2019). CAP} Poland in a triangle of tension. Retrieved on April 9, 2019 by ARC: http://www.arc2020.eu/cap-poland-triangle-of-tension/
  • Dinan, D. (2014). Orgins and evolution of the European Union. Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 by Desmond Dinan: https://books.google.nl/books?id=ZtDQAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=mansholt+pricing+scheme&source=bl&ots=BsXPApvGGm&sig=ACfU3U01nvFa3W_fvvjB1HX8R7_tlBg8KQ&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjhubG567DhAhXQJlAKHXO3CTsQ6AEwCHoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=mansholt%20pricing%20scheme&f=false
  • European Commission (N.D.) Sicco Mansholt: farmer, resistance fighter and a true European. Retrieved on April 1, 2019 by European Commission: https://europa.eu/european-union/sites/europaeu/files/docs/body/sicco_mansholt_en.pdf
  • European Commision (N.D.) Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC Treaty). Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 on: http://publications.europa.eu/resource/cellar/20ba20c8-6d6e-4901-b167-33bed13d6209.0005.02/DOC_4
  • European Parliament (N.D.). Financing of the CAP. Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 by European Parliament: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/106/financing-of-the-cap
  • European Commisison (N.D.) Legislation fort he organics sector. Retrieved on April 8, 2019 by the European Commission on: https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/farming/organic-farming/legislation_en
  • EUR-Lex (2007). Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91. Retrieved on April 8, 2019 by Eur-Lex on: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32007R0834
  • IFOAM (2009). The New EU Regulation for Organic Food and Farming. Retrieved on April 8, 2019 by IFOAM on: https://www.ifoam-eu.org/sites/default/files/page/files/ifoameu_reg_organic_regulation_dossier_2009_en.pdf
  • IFOAM (N.D.) Organic Regulations. Retrieved on April 9, 2019 by IFOAM: https://www.ifoam-eu.org/en/what-we-do/organic-regulations
  • Jespersen, L., Compagnoni, A. (2017). The European Organic Farming Control & Certification System. Retrieved on April 8, 2019 by Lizzie Melby Jespersen and Antonio Compagnoni on: https://abm.ifoam.bio/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EB_The-European-regulatory-framework-on-organic-aquaculture_22DEC2016_ABM-lm….pdf
  • Missel, L. (2016). Mansholt Farming: Europe. Retrieved on April 1, 2019 by Missel: http://edepot.wur.nl/383551
  • Reinalda, B. (2013, June 5). Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 by Bob Reinalda: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:g0QocBABapMJ:https://www.ru.nl/publish/pages/816038/mansholt-sl-5june2013-mar15.pdf+&cd=5&hl=nl&ct=clnk&gl=nl
  • Rickard, R.C. (September, 1970). Structural Policies For Agriculturare in the EEC: Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 by Rickard: https://journals.scholarsportal.info/pdf/0021857x/v21i0003/407_spfaite.xml
  • The Mansholt Letter. (N.D.) Exhibition: Sicco Mansholt. Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 on The Mansholt Letter: https://themansholtletter.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/exhibition-sicco-mansholt
  • University of Cardiff (2013). Common Agricultural Policy. Retrieved on on April 1, 2019 by University of Cardiff: http://aei.pitt.edu/75450/3/Common-Agricultural-Policy.pdf

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