03 February 1999
Fischler backs payment for ‘green’ farming
By Shelley Wright
FARMERS should be compensated for improving environmental practices and animal welfare levels, according to European farm commissioner Franz Fischler.
Speaking to delegates at the National Farmers Union AGM yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Fischler said producers should be paid for the extra cost of improving animal welfare above minimum EU standards.
“The general rule should be that every farmer has to accept good practice,” he said. “If they do more, they should be paid more.”
If such a policy was already in place, British pig producers would have received compensation for complying with the UKs unilateral ban on sow stalls and tethers.
The ban, which came into force on 1 January, has increased the cost of British pig production, but will not be implemented in the rest of the European Union for years.
Pig producers claim that they are being driven out of business by imports of cut-price pigmeat produced in conditions that would now be illegal in this country.
NFU president Ben Gill applauded the commissioners realisation that many farmers wanted to go beyond best practice, but were unable to afford the cost involved.
The European Commission already plans to increase by the proportion of its farm budget set aside for environment schemes and animal welfare measures.
The commissions Agenda 2000 proposals suggests that 10% of overall Common Agricultural Policy expenditure will become available compared with the 3% now.
The compensation for improving animal welfare levels would be funded partly from the EU and partly from national governments, said Mr Fischler.
“It should be part of the rural development policy,” he added.