Last Friday 23th March the 8 participating regions in the project SME_Organics attended the event held in Brussels about how Organic Action Plans can help SMEs and the wider European agri-food sector to stimulate high quality food production, rural job creation, environmental protection, climate action and animal welfare by taking a more coordinated approach. The goal of the meeting, organized by IFOAM-EU, was how action plans do this by providing a framework for integrating different policies into a broader policy picture. They also help in setting common objectives, targets and actions that serve the organic sector’s needs and meet public policy goals in a specific country or region.

Learning about Development, implementation and evaluation of an Organic Action Plan

The meeting began with the welcoming of the coordinator of the project SME-Organics, Alberto Enrique, to the attendees from Navarre (ES), Puglia (IT), Lombardy (IT), New Aquitaine (FR), Aargau (CH), North-West (RO), Lodzkie Region (PL), Seinäjoki (FI) and IFOAM-EU (BE). Enrique thanked the partners for their work and the assistance from IFOAM for the elaboration of the Organic Action Plans. Then, Eric Gall, Deputy Director and Policy Manager of IFOAM-EU, presented the Introduction about using Action Plans to develop organics.

Nicolas Lampkin, Executive Director of the Organic Research Center, explained the project results, specially, about development, implementation and evaluation. Lamking started saying the reasons for to support organic food and farming: delivery of environmental and animal welfare; because citizens demand for organic food and its benefits; premium market for organic products generates benefits; and, still in early stages, requiring nurturing (infant industry). Nicolas Lampkin also described the 5 phases of an Action Plan: Agenda setting (including status quo analysis and stakeholders inputs); policy formulation (goals, objectives, actions…); decision making (with resources and political support); policy implementation (organization staff and programs for stakeholders); and finally, monitoring and evaluation. And, on the other hand, explained the five steps for a successful implementation: three to five years process; suitable resourced (finances and people); partnership approach (engagement essential); steering group; and mid-term review.

Enhancing SME Competitiveness and Sustainability using Regional Organic Action Plans

Four of the partners of SME_Organics: Aargau (CH), North-West (RO), Lombardy (IT) and New Aquitaine (FR), explained the project results and described the work done to prepare the plan. And Rosella Soldi, Progress Consulting of the Commission for Natural Resources, explicated the Evaluation of the Implementation of the European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming.
The working day finished holding a panel of discussion in which participated: Nicolas Lampkin, Executive Director of the Organic Research Center; Rosella Soldi, Progress Consulting of the Commission for Natural Resources; Patrizia Pugliese, of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari/IAM-B - Organic Agriculture Division; Jérôme Orvain, Conseiller en charge de l’agriculture biologique à la Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine; and Eduardo Cuoco, Director of IFOAM-EU.

The discussion it was about the factors for success implementing Organic Action Plans; most effective partnership approach; dissemination of the concepts and actions; the role of intermediary organizations; and policy objectives, among others.