Welsh Government funding for the Organic Conversion Information Service (OCIS) ceased on 31 December 2011. This means there is no longer a free dedicated service to help farmers who are considering organic certification. It is not clear if the service will be re-opened.
Last year also saw the end of the core contract which had enabled Organic Centre Wales to provide coordination and information services to farmers, policy makers and the general public on organic issues since 2000. This followed more than two years of uncertainty when OCW was operating on short-term extensions.
More optimistically, it has now been agreed that the Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project will run to the end of 2013, helping businesses in the Welsh organic sector to improve profitability, sustainability and environmental performance. This means OCW will continue to deliver the BOBL project although there is concern that the reduced support for the sector and low levels of Organic Farming Conversion Scheme (OFCS) funding will undermine the project by reducing the number of farmers feeding into the supply chain.
At the moment we do not know what services OCW will be able to maintain but we will certainly be forced to cut core staff and services. Of major concern is that this is such a crucial time to feed into discussions on CAP reform. The EU has recognised the opportunities provided by organic farming in its initial proposals, but OCW will not be able to contribute to discussions or help Wales to maintain its leading role in the UK.
In the short term, OCW will maintain this e-bulletin on an ad hoc basis. The marketing e-bulletin will be also retained as that is currently supported through the BOBL project. Activities that are now in jeopardy however include the website, work on education and school visits to farms, policy analysis and advice to the Welsh Government, engagement in organic standards development, participation on Welsh Government and UK advisory groups, organic data and statistics collection and dissemination, telephone technical helpline, provision of organic areas and information at Welsh agricultural events, and responses to enquiries from home and overseas.
If you would like further information please contact the Director,
, on 01970 621627.