Along with representatives from Organic Farmers & Growers, Hook 2 Sisters and Humphrey Feeds, the NFU hosted Defra on a broiler & layer farm near Exeter on 24 August 2017.
The aim of the visit was to share with Defra the impact of ending the exceptional permissions for feed and pullets within EU organic legislation for poultry producers & the impact this will have on the wider UK organic market.
The NFU is asking both Defra and the EU Commission to extend both these derogations, until such time when the industry is in a position to meet legislation requirements. The industry wants to find ways to move away from these exceptional permissions, but needs the Commissions support with reasonable timeframes to do so.
Organic pig and poultry producers have been allowed an exception to the organic rules, to use 5% non-organic feed in their animal’s diet. The reason for this is due to a deficiency in organic protein, specifically Methionine within raw material, preventing monogastrics animals being fed a 100% organic diet. A deficiency of this essential amino acid can result in a lack of immunity and therefore an increase of disease; therefore causing welfare issues. Methionine within the diet is only needed in very small quantities, but is not insignificant in its importance to the overall welfare of the animal.
Further to this, the use of part-organic pullets has been authorised where organically reared pullets are not available in the market place. Although the birds are fed on an organic diet from a day old, they must be described as part-organic pullets as they are not given access to an organic range until up to 18 weeks of age. This is primarily due to a number of reasons, including rearers of organic pullets not wanting to expose their birds to the vagaries of variable day length, the welfare concerns of letting day old chicks outside exposing them to predators and also to the fact that many rearing farms do not have any land surrounding the unit to release the birds onto range.
Both these exceptional permissions are due to end on the 31st December 2017 and have been the cause of great concern to organic pig and poultry producers in the UK and across Europe.
Production could be unviable for many farmers if these exceptional rules are not be continued and would see the organic poultry meat and egg sector significantly devastated overnight.
Further to these two concerns, the NFU also raised its concerns regarding the new organic text, due to be implemented in 2020. The text removes the part organic pullet rule, which will have severe consequences to the sector & therefore organic market.
There is a Committee on Organic Production (COP) meeting scheduled on 27 September where these issues will be being discussed within Brussels, of which representatives from Defra will be attending and putting forward the conclusions from this visit.
The NFU said it would continue to meet with MEPs, Defra and the EU Commission to lobby hard the needs of its organic members.