UK ORGANIC sector leaders have welcomed Defra minister George Eustice's pledge that the government would continue to offer organic producers support post-Brexit.

In a meeting with the English Organic Forum last week, Mr Eustice told senior industry representatives that he was keen to see the UK organic sector continue to thrive – and that he did not want to un-do any existing organic regulations or standards which had so far encouraged UK organics to grow. As such, the current EU organic regulation was to be incorporated into UK law.

In what attendees described as a positive meeting, Mr Eustice indicated he was keen to support farming systems which used a tailored approach to production – this included soil management, legumes for nitrogen fixation and rotations, and farming systems which balanced traditional techniques with modern breeding practices.

He also said that he did not see the need to make any significant changes once the UK had left the European Union, as he wanted to ensure UK organics remained compliant with EU rules, and confirmed that organic conversion and maintenance support in its current form would continue to be available under Countryside Stewardship until the UK leaves the EU, including windows in 2017 and 2018 for five-year agreements starting in 2018 and 2019.

The meeting was part of the English Organic Forum’s efforts to clarify how government support for the sector may take shape in future, and to highlight areas of concern where the impact of Brexit might affect producers. Forum chairman and ORC director Nic Lampkin said Mr Eustice’s comments were extremely positive.

“This was a valuable opportunity to bring the organic sector together to air their concerns and aspirations for the industry, and it was encouraging that the Minister was obviously prepared to listen and take them on board,” he said.

“With the right support, the organic sector can continue to provide valuable public goods and services, supported by the market, which Mr Eustice seemed to recognise. The Minister also recognised the value of the organic brand in developing trade opportunities for UK businesses. We hope that this is the start of a meaningful dialogue with government over how we can work together to help encourage organic producers post-Brexit."