Brexit helpline launched for organic farmers

The charity has opened its Brexit readiness helpline for organic farmers and growers
The charity has opened its Brexit readiness helpline for organic farmers and growers

The Soil Association has launched a Brexit readiness support service to help organic businesses prepare for a no-deal scenario on 31 October.

The charity's service consists of a support phone line, email address and online chat system.

It aims to answer questions and provide information to the sector, including requirements needed in order for organic farmers to prepare for Brexit.

The service is open to all organic businesses in the UK, not just those certified by Soil Association Certification.

It comes at a critical time for the UK’s organic sector, with the Soil Association warning that a no-deal exit brings “maximum uncertainty” for organic food and farming.

Currently, in the event of no-deal, organic producers will not be able to export to the EU unless certified by an EU-approved organic control body.

Soil Association Certification and other UK certification bodies are unable to officially apply for this status until the UK has left the EU, any break in recognition would mean organic exports to the bloc would effectively be blocked.

Liz Bowles, Associate Director of Farming, Soil Association, said a no-deal brings 'maximum uncertainty' for organic food and farming.

“In the event of a no-deal Brexit, recognition of UK organic certification by the EU is anticipated to cease overnight with a prospect of a prolonged period when organic exports to the EU could become impossible.

“An ongoing lack of clarity and progress from government, despite the work of many organisations in the sector, means we are still no clearer how long this break in the ability of organic businesses to export will be.

“Any break – whether it is 6 days or 6 months – could be devastating for many organic businesses,” she said.

Funding for the hotline comes from the government’s “Brexit readiness fund”, set up to help sectors most at risk from a no-deal.

The Soil Association, whose certification arm certifies around 70% of the UK’s organic food and drink, applied for the funds in order to provide the sector some certainty.