This review of ORC’s activities covers two years, 2014 and 2015. We are pleased that this period saw improvement in the recognition given to organic/agroecological approaches by practitioners, the food industry, citizens and policy makers. As a reflection of this, ORC, working with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), was commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage, on behalf of the Land Use Policy Group of the UK Nature Conservation agencies, to produce a report on the contribution of agroecology to sustainable intensification, which was published in spring 2015. Subsequently, Defra has started to reassess the somewhat negative position it had taken to agroforestry in particular.
The initiation, by ORC in 2014, of an on-line knowledge hub, with financial support from Defra, paved the way for the Daylesford Foundation, working with ORC and GWCT, to launch a significant new on-line resource, Agricology, in 2015. This will support the adoption of agroecological approaches by all interested producers, regardless of labels, and complements other initiatives, such as the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, now relaunched as Innovative Farmers, with which ORC is already closely involved.
After several difficult years, the organic market has returned to growth, with some retailers showing renewed commitment to developing their organic ranges. Although we cannot claim credit for this growth, our work on improving organic market data contributed to a better understanding of these trends and we plan to progress this further in 2016. Our engagement in the intense debate on the EU organic regulation reform proposals, both in the UK and in the EU, has helped progress towards a more balanced outcome, although the reform debate will continue well into 2016.
ORC also made a significant contribution to improvements in the policy environment for organic farming. In England, ORC led organic sector negotiations with Defra on support payments for organic farming, providing critical evidence on the environmental benefits of organic farming and securing a recalculation of the maintenance payments, resulting in an overall improvement in support levels for English organic producers compared with Defra’s original plans, estimated to be worth more than £5 million a year to the sector.
During this period, some significant new projects were started, including the EU-funded AGFORWARD (agroforestry), WHEALBI (cereal breeding), DIVERSIFOOD (new grains) and OK-NET ARABLE (sharing research and tools) projects. The 4.5-year, EU-funded SOLIBAM project was completed, reinforcing the progress we have made in the development of alternative approaches to plant breeding focused on genetic diversity. Building on our plant breeding work, we have secured a ground-breaking agreement for a temporary marketing experiment under the relevant EU seed marketing regulations to enable trade in wheat population seeds from 2014.
During 2014 and 2015, we also undertook some land sales in order to finance reinvestment in farm buildings, solar PV installation and releasing funds to address the challenges covered in more detail in the financial reports at the end of this document.
Download ORC 2014/2015 Review of Activities
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