The National Farmers' Union, which lobbied for the change in regulations, has welcomed the news, saying that it will give producers greater confidence in the sector.
Originally, the European Commission was due to end the derogation for non-organic feed by 1 January 2012. It announced that this would be delayed for an unspecified time in December, as there were fears that this would leave leave poultry producers short of raw ingredients to provide the nutritional requirements for their birds. The NFU had argued that the uncertainty over the EU directive was having seriously detrimental effect on the organic poultry industry, leaving producers on a knife-edge over what would happen after 2013.
The regulation on regional sourcing has also been amended. Although producers will now be required to source a percentage of feed “produced in the same region in cooperation with other organic farms or feed business operators”, the levels have been lowered from 40% to 20%, while 60% of feed for herbivores must be sourced from either on-farm or from the region, originally set at 70%.
Martin Humphrey, NFU organic poultry representative, said: “I am pleased that the EU has come to a decision which gives organic poultry producers the scope to continue with high levels of nutrition that provide birds with good welfare.
“In addition, we are able to continue to access the necessary ingredients required to ensure that the birds meet all their requirements. We have been calling for this change since June 2011, and are delighted the EU agrees with our assessment of the situation.”
However, Ruth Mason, NFU food chain advisor, told Meat Trades Journal that while the extension was good news, concerns about what will happen after 2014 remain. She said that organic feed products are not currently available and although research is under way, there is currently no commerical alternative.
She said: “What has been put is place is very workable and will push producers to look at greater regional sourcing, but there are areas that still need clarifying and more work needs to be done now to prepare for post-2014.”
She warned that the EU shouldn’t extend for the sake of extending, but in order to conduct research and allow the industry time to find alternatives, adding that the Commission would need to take a pragmatic view on ending the derogation completely and review the situation before the end of 2014.
She said that the NFU will continue to lobby for research and to encourage joined-up thinking across the EU, so that countries would share any research already undertaken.
The EU has tried to commission research on organic protein feed, but this is still at a relatively early stage and looks unlikely to be completed this year, leaving a relatively short time for producers to get ready for any changes that may be introduced post-2014.
Defra is expected to publish guidance on the regulations next week, which is hoped will clarify some of the outstanding queries. It has still not defined the term ‘region’, and the UK will continue to regard the regional feed percentage as being produced from the same climatic region that the animals are produced in – that is, north-west Europe, since to do otherwise could result in a restraint on intra-Community trade.
>Feed regulations repreive for organic poultry