The Ulster Farmers’ Union has challenged DEFRA secretary David Miliband over his comments that farmers needed to grasp new market opportunities such as biofuels.

Speaking from the Oxford Farming Conference, where Mr Miliband addressed UK farmers, UFU president Kenneth Sharkey said the government needed to do much more to encourage the biofuel industry on farms.

“I find it a contradiction that ministers continually urge us to take advantage of emerging energy markets, and then heavily tax the fledgling biofuel sector to the point where local farmers are saying it is  barely profitable,” he said.

“We have highlighted before that, in stark contrast, tax incentives are in place in the Republic of Ireland to encourage on farm biofuel production.  Tax breaks are helping the industry south of the border to develop, while in Northern Ireland almost 30p/litre is taken in tax by the UK Treasury from biofuel.”

Mr Sharkey added that a successful biofuel industry would be good news for farmers, consumers and the environment.

The UFU was also critical of the DEFRA secretary’s desire to see more radical reforms of the CAP.

“Farmers need a stable environment in which to develop their businesses,” he said. “The last thing they need is the de-stabilising effect of more radical reforms of the CAP, when the current reforms have barely taken hold.”

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