Subsidies are just the first step on the way

Generous five-year subsidies are being made available to farmers wanting to enter an organic livestock breeding program including, for the first time ever in Greece, funds for organic pig-farming. The program is due to begin in the second half of January, meaning that interested producers will not receive the subsidies before the end of next year. Nevertheless, sources say that producers who have already entered organic farming programs and are in possession of animals, are showing a strong interest in the plan. Details of the program, to be finalized in a new ministerial decree, will be of great interest to farmers who choose to enter it, but most agree that the financial incentive, while important, is not enough to support and develop organic livestock breeding. There is expected to be a considerable dropout rate after the fifth year, when the funding stops. For real growth and continuity, organization and technical support is needed. The Agricultural Development and Food Ministry appears to be willing but unable. Although it has decided to increase subsidies for organic livestock breeding, obstacles are raised by the overlap of authorities in different ministry departments. As for the number of producers in Greece, unfortunately bureaucracy does not permit the collection of reliable data. According to figures from two of the country’s organic products certification organizations (BIOHELLAS and DIO), there are currently 943 farmers breeding livestock organically. According to the relevant European Regulation (1804/99), stabling and grazing areas for organic livestock must be considerably larger than for those non-organically raised and there are clear specifications. Although organically raised pigs do not exactly gambol about in green pastures, organic production ensures that the animals are raised in areas where they can move about sufficiently freely. As for organically raised goats, the producer must have a considerable number of hectares to graze them on. Meanwhile, the animals must be given only organically grown fodder, with no added chemicals or dietary supplements. Naturally, no feed containing genetically modified organisms is permissible. Animals diseases are dealt with using homeopathic remedies. Where a conventional drug is considered necessary, double the amount of time than that required in conventional farming is needed for an animal to be considered free of any traces of the drug. Since organically bred animals move about more and are not given dietary supplements, they do not easily gain weight and are slaughtered as soon as they have matured enough.