13 July 2001


&#8226 BRUSSELS plans for a simpler flat rate sheep annual premium from next year won widespread support from MEPs in the parliaments agriculture committee this week, though everyone who spoke said it should be at a higher rate. The EU Commission wants to pay k21/ewe (£12.80), but some members suggested k40/head (£24.40) would be more realistic. Farm ministers will have the final say, probably in November.

&#8226 LIBERAL Democrats in the European Parliament have called for a radical shake-up of the Common Agricultural Policy to take account of societys changing needs. Presenting the findings of the partys CAP reform taskforce – set up in the wake of BSE and foot-and-mouth – former Swedish farm minister Karl Eric Olsen called for an end to production-related support. Farmers should, instead, be paid for preserving the landscape.

&#8226 LOW-GRADE Spanish olive oil has been impounded in several EU member states, following contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon – a cancer-causing chemical. Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and France have all taken the product off the market, as has Spain. The low-grade oil accounts for about 10% of total Spanish output. Virgin and extra virgin oils are not affected.

&#8226 MAIZE production in northern Italy were subjected to a battering last weekend, when a tornado tore through the Brianza region and Milan province. According to the countrys main farm union, Coldiretti, at least 35 people were hurt and heavy losses incurred as a result of damage to crops and buildings. Maize is widely grown for feeding to the regions indoor dairy herds.

&#8226 EUROPES farm workforce continues to shrink and now accounts for just 4.5% of total employment, according to recent figures from statistics agency Eurostat. The latest data reveals that the fastest contraction has been in Spain, where 20% of the agricultural workforce left the industry between 1997 and 2000.

&#8226 THE brains of fallen cattle in Northern Ireland must be tested for BSE from July 16 as part of the EU-wide testing programme of fallen stock. Animals aged over 24 months which die on farm or in transit, or which are killed on farm but are not eligible for the Over Thirty Months Scheme should be tested. Ulster farm minister Brid Rodgers appealed to farmers to participate in the survey. &#42

FARMING subsidies are being handed out without considering the potential for harming the environment, according to the chief executive of the Countryside Agency.

Richard Wakeford told a three-day conference in Norwich, organised by the Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that farmers were paid more than £3bn/year in subsidies.

"Yet most of the subsidies are directed to commodities, irrespective of environmental impact and are not sufficiently directed to the public amenities we want farmers to deliver. This a scandal," he said.

Mr Wakeford said everyone agreed there was a need for a competitive and diverse farming industry within a thriving rural economy, an industry which delivered environmental and social benefits.

"Everyone agrees we need a dramatic reshaping of subsidies so that people can see a clear link between their taxes and the public benefits that result."

He urged Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Margaret Beckett to inspire other European Union nations to reform the CAP.

"The rewards will be enjoyed across the countryside, especially in AONBs where modern farming practices have done so much to erode the character of our countryside."

In the meantime, Mrs Beckett could use the existing grant schemes and win new resources to deliver the landscape that people wanted, he suggested. &#42

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