22 January 1999
Non-food crops call from NFU

FARMERS leaders are determined to push the EU Commission to do more to develop non-food crops as part of the Agenda 2000 reforms of the common agricultural policy.

A National Farmers Union meeting in London last week, agreed there was a need to develop non-food opportunities for crops, especially with so much concern under Agenda 2000 about the future for oilseed rape.

Tim Bennett, NFU deputy president, said the union had been disappointed with the commissions report late last year on non-food use.

“There was too much emphasis on biodiesel,” he said.

The potential of set-aside and traditional grassland for biomass production had not been addressed adequately.

But many member states, and EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler, were keen to develop non-food opportunities for crops and Mr Bennett said the union would continue to work with these supporters to put pressure on the commission.

Rad Thomas, chairman of the unions oils, proteins and fibres committee, said an action group on industrial crops had been established about five months ago.

“This is not a matter that we are ignoring. We are looking at securing a sustainable, robust policy within Agenda 2000 that would enhance industrial crops in the EU,” he said.

“We have lobbied MPs, government departments and the relevant directorates in Brussels. If we dont achieve anything at the end of the day, it certainly wont be for the want of trying.”