Cumbersome bureaucracy is the bane of many professions, and farmers are no exception. A new survey shows that paperwork and regulatory burdens are the main difficulty for 44% of UK organic farmers.

The survey, which was completed by more than 170 licensee members of the farmer-specific national certification body Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G), showed that 42% of participants reported that technical and husbandry problems posed the second largest difficulty, followed by business and economic issues with 14%.

OF&G said in a press briefing held in London yesterday [Thursday] that it was to "ease the regulatory and red tape pressures as far as is possible under the current regulations" that it has agreed a strategic alliance with UK inspection and certification specialist EFSIS (as reported on just-food.com recently).

Letter to Elliot Morley MP

In a bid to influence the work being undertaken by the Organic Action Plan Committee at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, OF&G has written to the chair of this committee, Elliot Morley MP. OF&G's letter outlines the main survey results, makes key recommendations and seeks inclusion in the committee.

Through its Organic Targets bill, the UK government has outlined ambitious plans to expand the UK organic farming sector, yet OF&G said these plans are backed up with very little guidance as to how they are to be achieved. From the current 4%, the area of agricultural land under organic cultivation is targeted to grow to 30% by 2010 - if this target is to be achieved or even approached, a consistent and well thought-out strategy needs to be devised and implemented, said OF&G.

The letter to Morley outlines key recommendations the certification body feels should be considered by the Organic Action Plan Committee. These include:

· A targeted research and development programme and effective knowledge transfer process to allow UK farmers to meet the rising demand for organic food from sustainable home grown resources;
· A clear rationale from Government for achieving a balance between supply and demand, and steady growth;
· A national consumer education programme involving all food chain stakeholders to promote consumer awareness;
· A lessening of the bureaucracy required of farmers to the minimum level necessary to maintain standards and organic authenticity.

Need to work alongside conventional farmers

In an aside at the press briefing, OF&G chairman CEO David Edwards also commented that it was vital organic farmers and conventional farmers work together, as nothing will be achieved by a "them and us" scenario. He added that he found it "regrettable that certain elements within the organics movement had chosen to criticise conventional farmers" during last year's outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

To read about the as earlier reported on just-food.com, click here.

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