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Monogastric feed requirements partly clarified

Date Published: 08/12/2011

Defra has today issued new guidance on rules surrounding the allowance of five per cent non-organic feed in rations for organic pigs and poultry.

The new detail follows concerns voiced directly to Defra officials by Organic Farmers & Growers over confusion surrounding the situation and conflicting advice being given to organic operators by a variety of industry bodies.

Current rules permitting the five per cent allowance, under a derogation, are to expire at midnight on December 31st, 2011. Despite this, new regulations are not yet agreed at the European level and conflicting reports emerged from Europe last week regarding what producers and feed compounders should do in the meantime.

Defra has now said that it has been agreed with the European Commission that feeding to the current regulation will be permitted to continue until the new rules are decided, which is not expected to be until a meeting of the Standing Committee on Organic Farming (SCOF) in February next year, though Defra today said: “This Regulation will probably not be published for some weeks after that vote.”

In a Guidance Note issued by Defra at 17:35 today it was stated: “In these circumstances, operators may continue to comply with the current requirements of Regulation 834/2007 with regard to monogastric feed and sourcing of poultry from 1 January 2012. This is time-limited to the date when the new feed Regulation comes into force and will be kept under review by Defra. Control Bodies should not take action against any operator for breach of the rules discussed in this guidance note so long as they continue to be compliant with those rules as they stand prior to 31 December 2011.”

The Guidance Note also stressed that there should be no negative ramifications for organic operators: “Importantly, it is intended that the new feed Regulation will have retrospective effect so that all operators will legally retain their organic status during the gap between 01 January and the date of publication.”

However, despite this formal guidance on the issue, Richard Jacobs, chief executive of leading organic control body, Organic Farmers & Growers, said there were still areas for concern.

“I’m afraid we are becoming very used to Europe being extremely late on making amendments to the regulation. This becomes extremely frustrating for all of us, particularly those at the sharp end of organic production whose livelihoods depend on being able to plan for their expenses and changing regulatory requirements.

“With this guidance, Defra has attempted to clarify the situation as much as it can, but of course it doesn’t particularly help the feed manufacturers or the farmers who have to order their products for their livestock and still will not know what the rules will be post the SCOF meeting in February. We have been told that it’s likely that the five per cent allowance for non-organic feed will remain until the end of 2014, but what is “likely” is far from being definite.

“Undoubtedly this is the most clarification we can expect so, on the basis of this, we will be advising our licensees to continue making feed and feeding it to livestock as per the current regulations until the new regulation comes into force. That still leaves a question mark over what will be acceptable for them to do in the changeover period between the two regulations – you can’t just throw away what you’ve got in stock at midnight one day and start feeding a different ration the next and compounders will want to order ingredients months ahead, which this makes it difficult for them to do.”

Organic Farmers & Growers, along with many in the organic sector, is conscious that continuing to move towards 100 per cent organic rations for all livestock is the ideal situation and is fully supportive of that, however there is still much dispute regarding whether an appropriate diet can be delivered, particularly to poultry, with a totally organic feed.

It is felt that a continuation of the current regime under a renewed regulation will give the sector time to develop and test 100 per cent organic formulations that support the welfare of the animals.