Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) has expressed dismay at Defra’s Path to Sustainable Farming 2021-2024, calling it a ‘roadmap to nowhere’.

Roger Kerr, chief executive of the certifier, comments on the roadmap: “We welcome a transition to more sustainable farming principles. We’re fully behind the ‘better, fairer farming systems that deliver more for the environment’ that the Secretary of State has outlined. But this currently looks like a roadmap to nowhere.

“There’s a glaring hole in the Government’s strategy as it fails to include organic in any Environmental Land Management (ELM) proposal or pilot scheme, as well as lacking any financial detail for farmers to plan their business strategies for when the ELM scheme begins in a little over three years’ time.

Kerr says while the principles of organic are positioned as ‘advantageous’ in the transition plan, if the Government ‘truly wants to fulfil’ its objectives, then organic must be ‘properly recognized for its role in delivering against those targets’.

Defra has been planning this transition for four years and yet the migration process remains hazy at best

“There’s undoubtedly a need for a new way forward. The current system isn’t working but simply cherry-picking specific elements of ‘environmentally-friendly’ food production isn’t going to address the multiple, complex and serious challenges we face.

“Organic opens access to new food supply chains, improved farm biodiversity and reduced reliance on inputs with the resultant release in working capital. Additionally, the integrated approach organic farmers use helps protect natural habitats and wildlife populations, as well as reducing risks of negative impacts on air, water and soil quality.

Defra has been planning this transition for four years and yet the migration process remains hazy at best. It’s still unclear how payments will reward farmers for their environmental input. It’s time for Government to recognize the diversity of approaches to food production and ensure organic farmers and growers are financially recognized for the proven value and multiple benefits they provide as part of this new ‘better, fairer farming system’.”