The draft regulation incorporates a rule that would require organic animal feed to be produced on-farm or sourced from within 150km, to encourage local production of organic feed.
“At least 60% of the feed shall come primarily from the farm itself or, where this is not feasible, shall to the extent possible be produced in cooperation with other organic farms established within a radius of 150km of the farm itself and be produced in the Union,” states the regulation.
Oliver Rubinstein, assistant food chain advisor at the National Farmers’ Union, (NFU) said this proposal was of serious concern to organic pig and poultry producers in the UK, who rely heavily on imports.
“All of the sunflower meal used by the organic pig and poultry industry comes from the Ukraine, and all of our soybean meal is imported from China. Producers have no other alternative - we can’t grow the right quality of grain in the UK. The rest of Europe is not as reliant on imported feed,” he told this publication.
150km proposal likely to be dropped
However, he said the NFU was lobbying for a change to the draft regulation, and was confident that such a strict rule would not make it into the final version.
“I get the impression that this probably won’t go through. It was something the Commission wanted to include, but it’s not workable,” he said.
However, Rubinstein did concede that a “compromise” in the form of a larger geographical radius for the sourcing of organic feed was a likely outcome.
“We are hoping that it will be extended to include the whole of Europe,” he said.
The NFU is also demanding a full report on feed availability in Europe before the proposal is agreed.
“One such report is planned for 2020, but we would like it to be done sooner,” he said.
State of play
The Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council are currently in so called ‘trialogue’ discussions to try to agree on the final wording for the regulation.
According to Ján Jakubov, a spokesperson for the European Parliament, the next trialogue is scheduled for today [28 January].
“Everything - including AM330 on animal feed - is still under discussion. However, given the complexity of the file and the fact that negotiations are only in an early stage, it is hard if not impossible to predict how the final text will look,” he said.
He explained that once the trialogue talks are concluded and the deal (between European Parliament and Council negotiators) is struck, it will have to be confirmed by the European Parliament's agriculture and rural development committee, then by the Parliament as a whole and finally by the Council, before it can be signed, published in the Official Journal and entered into force.
Timing-wise, the Dutch agriculture minister has said he hopes to reach a political agreement with Parliament on the organic law by the end of June (the end of the Dutch EU presidency).
However, this intention is no guarantee of a speedy passage through the process, as Jakubov pointed out.
“The file is so complex that it is too early to say whether we will have a final text before summer this year - and MEPs said several times in the past that quality of the final text was more important for them than its speedy adoption,” he said.