How Scotland’s “Organic Ambitions” Plan Will Shift the Future of Food and Farming

How Scotland’s “Organic Ambitions” Plan Will Shift the Future of Food and Farming

Next week, “Organic Ambitions: An Action Plan for organic food and farming in Scotland 2016-2020” will be unveiled in Scotland. The plan for organic food production is designed to help build a more sustainable farming future and stimulate the rural economy.

The January 27 launch will coincide with the first day of the Organic Research Center’s annual conference, being held in Bristol.

Organic Ambitions is a reboot of Organic Futures, an organic action plan produced in 2011 and revised in 2013, which was intended to strengthen Scotland’s organic food sector.

It is the work of the Scottish Organic Forum (SOF), which includes Soil Association Scotland, Scottish Organic Producers Association, Organic Growers Alliance, Caledonian Organics, Scottish Organic Milk Producers, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, Scotland’s Rural College, SAC Consulting, and The Scottish Government. [1]


The SOF says its goals include:

“Knowledge – Understanding the benefits that organic produce can bring to everyone and to our environment

Strength – Building a stronger Scottish organic supply chain to increase the availability of organic produce for everyone

Skills – Ensuring that everyone interested in learning about innovative organic production will have access to advice and training

Resilience – Strengthening the ability of organic farming to conserve and enhance Scotland’s biodiversity and natural resources, and in turn to build more resilient farms.” [2]

Wendy Seel, chairman of the SOF, explains:

“Organic Ambitions will aim to build knowledge about organics, strength in the organic supply chain and skills across the organic sector.”

Primarily, according to Seel, Organic Ambitions aims to “strengthen the capacity of Scotland’s organic farms to preserve and enhance natural capital, and in-turn to build a more resilient food supply chain.”

Scotland is one of several EU countries with action plans to promote and strengthen organic farming. For example, in 2014, France launched its Agroecology Action Plan. The Law for the Future of Agriculture, Food and the Forest spent a year making its way through the French parliamentary system before it was passed in the fall of that year.

French farm minister Stéphane Le Foll said that while the law was about producing and consuming food differently, it focused more on training future farmers differently.

In September 2013, France hired on some 220 new researchers and tutors who were tasked with the job of teaching varying aspects of agroecology to the country’s agricultural college students. The purpose was to not only introduce new farming techniques to the students, but also to launch a new generation of French farmers with a commitment to organic farming and agroecology, in general.

Check out this video as you’re reading this article to learn more about the initiative!

Under the law, farmland is protected from competing land uses, and it is easier for young farmers to get started in agriculture. Regional farmland management bodies (SAFERs) can intervene in land sales by compulsorily purchasing farmland that might otherwise be turned into yet another housing development or strip mall. A local SAFER often assigns land to young farmers from its land bank to help them get started. [3]

But there is no similar action plan in England. It is estimated that half of the UK’s food will come from overseas within a generation, due to an increasing population, stalled farm productivity and environmental concerns. This is likely to further erode the UK’s food self-sufficiency even further.

The organic food movement is becoming more mainstream and less of a niche. Research shows that many organic production practices boost the quality of food produced by the industry, and also helps ensure that it has a sustainable future, according to Nic Lampkin at the Organic Research Center.

“To remain resilient, productive and profitable, British agriculture has to change.

Labels and polarized positions on how we produce our food need to be replaced by the positives of exploring common ground in organic and conventional systems, based on ecological as well as technological innovation.” [1]

Scotland announced in August that it was banning GM crops from being grown on its territory, where there had been a long-standing moratorium on the practice.


[1] Farmers Weekly

[2] Thunderclap

[3] Sustainable Food Trust