FARMERS, producers and citizens have the chance to give feedback on changes to organic standards for farming and food processing in Northern Ireland, as part of a review by the Soil Association.
Northern Ireland operates under different organic rules from the rest of the UK as it has adopted new EU organic regulations.
The Soil Association celebrates the positive development of the organic sector and regulations in Europe but in a few cases the charity is seeking to be more ambitious and has proposed higher standards.
The consultation is now live, and aims to ensure that Soil Association higher standards address the key differences between the latest regulations and our proposals, including changes to poultry, pig and aquaculture standards.
Soil Association Standards Manager Kathleen Robinson said, “The Soil Association wants to deliver the best possible standards of animal welfare, environmental and wildlife protection, so we have our own higher standards in key areas.
“While these changes are specifically for Northern Ireland, we want to gather views from people with an interest in organic food from across the UK. What we hear now will inform our input to Defra on the development of the new organic regulations for the rest of Great Britain in the coming year.
“We have set out a series of proposals for higher standards and now we’re excited to hear voices from across the organic sector. Organic farmers are pioneers in sustainable food production, and their feedback is central to building the evidence base behind our decisions – this is their chance to lead the conversation.”
The proposed standards changes for Northern Ireland affect the following areas:
- Livestock – including proposals for poultry around housing, access to outdoor space and rearing young hens.
- Crop inputs – including proposals for new rules around fertilisers and pesticides.
- Food and drink inputs – including proposals for new additives and processing aids permitted in the organic food and drink regulation such as hop extract and cellulose.
- Feed inputs – including proposals for new products and substances permitted in the organic feed regulation such as new feed minerals and technological additives.
- Aquaculture – including treatments for salmon and related species and permitted fertilisers for seaweed.
The consultation is open for 60 days, closing on Monday 29 January 2024. The Soil Association’s standards team will then assess responses and an update to the standards will be published later in the year.
A consultation for aquaculture in Great Britain is also open to anyone with an interest in the sector