Stuart Agnew MEP: The EU and Agriculture
Guest Blogger, 20 April 2016
The EU is riven with contradictions. Take the vote last week to ban the herbicide glyphosate in seven years’ time. This material has been of enormous benefit to farmers over the last 40 years and has an excellent safety record. The World Health Organisation classify it as ‘probably carcinogenic’, which sounds alarming until you see what else they put into that same category. This includes sitting in front of a log fire at home, cutting human hair and working nightshifts.
I can recall life before glyphosate. In order to control perennial weeds we needed to frequently cultivate the soil to bring roots to the surface. This involved repeated tractor operations consuming fuel, rubber and steel. The soil would be left in a fragile state, very vulnerable to erosion in periods of heavy rain, which would have the further negative effect of allowing the weeds to re-establish. Whilst this glyphosate ban will increase fuel usage, farmers are also being told that they must use less fuel because of exhaust emissions. In the face of these contradictory messages, what are farmers supposed to do?
The British taxpayer puts £6 billion into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). British farmers receive £3 billion from the CAP. Not the best of deals. Some of this money is earmarked for environmental schemes. Environmental schemes are expected to make the countryside more attractive in appearance. Any farmer who receives funding for the new generation of environmental schemes must henceforth erect a ‘Gratitude Plaque’ (my term) in his fields. This must be of a certain size and will depict the familiar EU ring of yellow stars on the blue background. The larger the financial grant for a particular scheme, the larger the board(s) must be. I would suggest that cluttering up our countryside with junk like this is not enhancing our environment. Farmers will be expected to erect these signs at their own expense, which will include a planning fee. The signs must be all present and correct in the event of a spot inspection, which could result in a ‘cross-compliance’ financial penalty, if they are not. Presumably it is just a coincidence that these boards will start to be erected during the EU referendum campaign.
Stuart Agnew has been a UKIP MEP in the Eastern Region since 2009. You can visit his website at www.stuartagnewmep.co.uk.