Insights from the 2021 National Organic Combinable Crops conference

18 August 2021

Organics

The annual Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) on-farm National Organic Combinable Crops (NOCC) conference was able to go ahead in person this year, albeit it with a cap on the number of delegates able to attend, in line with COVID-secure guidelines.

Held at former NFU Organic Forum chair John Pawsey’s farm, Shimpling Park in Suffolk, the event was moderated by Radio 4’s Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith.

Presentations

The morning session featured a number of presentations from industry specialists:

  • The Organic Trade Board provided an update on the organic market, detailing areas of growth and emerging opportunities. Read our organic market update informed by data from the Organic Trade Board.
  • Mark Russell of Carter Jonas discussed organic farming in relation to tenancies and the new farm payment schemes.
  • Dr Ambrogio Constanzo from the Organic Research Centre (ORC) shared results from a recent Defra-funded trial he has been leading on, which is a farm-based organic wheat variety trials network, LiveWheat.

Panel discussion

A discussion session enabled delegates to put questions to a panel made up of:

  • Former NFU Organic Forum chair and NOCC host John Pawsey
  • Sue Walker, relationship manager at Tridos Bank
  • Organic farmer Richard Gantlett
  • Josiah Meldrum, co-founder, Hodmedods
  • Mark Russell, Carter Jonas
  • Dr Ambrogio Constanzo, ORC
  • Janet Hughes, programme director, Future Farming and Countryside Programme, Defra.

Image of panel discussion at NOCC

Questions asked by NFU members

Members of the NFU's Organic Forum in attendance posed questions to Janet Hughes, programme director for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme at Defra. South West representative Adam Westaway explained how Farming Rules for Water will impact organics and called for better communication between Defra and the Environment Agency.

In reply, Ms Hughes said:

"The reason in my programme we have regulation and enforcement sitting alongside productivity alongside schemes is because what we're trying to do, for the first time I think, is to join those things up in a coherent way.
"So that you're not being told by one set of rules to do one thing and then by a scheme to do something different.
"That is quite a tricky thing to pull off. But one of the particular issues we're looking at is nutrient management – so we can see across the range of policy and interventions are we setting the right rules? Are we enforcing them in the right way? Are we communicating them in the right way? Are we incentivising the right behaviours?"

Other NFU Organic Forum members asked about the new ELMs scheme and the future of organic farming in relation to changing legislation and payments.

 

Read a full report from the sessions, and download some of the presentations, at the OF&G website: OF&G's National Organic Combinable Crops 2021 report

Farm walk

This year there were four topics discussed along the guided farm walk:

  • Dr Ambrogio Constanzo and colleagues from the ORC and National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) talked about crop trials and seed breeding.
  • Dr Elizabeth Stockdale from NIAB talked about ways to implement soil health testing and score cards on farm.
  • The Woodland Trust spoke about the on-farm options for agroforestry and showed examples of where it has been implemented at Shimpling Park Farm.
  • John Pawsey and his employees talked about some of the machinery used at Shimpling Park Farm.

 

Watch video footage from these talks at the OF&G website: The NOCC 2021 Farm Walk

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