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Dark days for Organic Centre Wales

Date Published: 01/02/2012

As of December 31st, 2011, all core funding for Organic Centre Wales has ceased. This news came as a very unwelcome blow to all involved in the sector and throws up an awful lot of questions around the future of support for organic food and farming in Wales.

OCW has long been involved in many, many crucial elements of Welsh organics, operating in a co-ordinating and promotional role, as well as a key liaison between the sector and the Welsh Assembly Government.

You only have to look at this list sent in a letter to WAG ministers by Bob Kennard, of the Welsh Organic Group, to see how many roles OCW had:

1.      OCIS helpline and OCIS service: OCIS information pack and provision of free on-farm visits ensuring conventional farmers fully understand the implications of conversion to organic;

2.      Organic farming helpline: information provided on Agri-Environmental schemes, standards, certification issues and signposting to advisory services;

3.      OCW website – updates on AE schemes, information on organic standards and development, particularly with reference to the Welsh situation;

4.      Monthly e-bulletins – updating information on standards and regulations, local events, research results;

5.      Coordination and provision of organic areas at Royal Welsh Show and Royal Welsh Winter fair;

6.      Annual Organic Producer conference;

7.      Organic aspects information for consultative groups, such as Animal Health and Welfare Steering group; HCC parasite group; Sheep scab group; Defra organic feed group; Farming Connect Strategic Advisory Board (in the past included NVZ group, Axis 2 group, CAP reform groups etc.);

8.      Maintenance of database of Welsh organic farmers and liaison with Defra for collation and provision of organic sector statistics;

9.      Feedback to WG on documentation (e.g. SFP forms, information etc.) in particular relating to organic farming and scheme claims and payments;

10.   Liaison and provision of contacts for EU and UK research projects: e.g. currently SOLID and BioBio;

11.   Information hub for organic farming in Wales, including website, new publications, library and individuals with personal knowledge on practical issues, as well as public policy (concerning Cardiff, Westminster and Brussels);

12.  Funding co-ordination.  It seems likely that the current BOBL project could not have been prepared and executed without OCW expertise in Wales.

This sudden and unexpected loss of central support could be catastrophic for Welsh organics, which is an important part of the organic picture across the UK as a whole.

OF&Gs’ view is that OCW has consistently provided excellent representation for the Welsh organic sector and has been instrumental in supporting the growth of organic in Wales. Without OCW there is a very real danger that the focus will be lost and that Wales position as a leader in UK organic will be eroded.

Many representations are being made to the Minister and we can only hope that there will be a realisation within Government that OCW should be supported and must be able to continue its work.