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Tag ‘CAP’

Suggesting that the EU is to blame for floods is completely without foundation

Friday, January 8th, 2016
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Rating: 4.3/5 (42 votes cast)

Summary

The recent severe flooding in parts of the UK has caused serious distress to many people.

These floods occurred as a result of a period of record rainfall in the regions most severely affected.

EU environmental protection policies help prevent and deal with flooding. The EU also leads the world in tackling climate change, which most experts see as a factor in extreme weather events.

The Common Agricultural Policy encourages farmers to take “greening” measures that can contribute to mitigating flooding.

Read the full entry

No, the EU does not give you hay fever

Friday, May 29th, 2015
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Rating: 4.6/5 (5 votes cast)

Rapeseed, the home grown alternative to olive oil imports first introduced by the Romans, is again in the headlines as its bright yellow blooms transform parts of Britain.

Opinion concerning the impact the flowering crops have on hay fever sufferers is as seasonal as the crops themselves: “Runny eyes and wheezy chest? Blame Britain’s crops of rapeseed“, Daily Mail 2007 and more recently “Yellow crop has been blamed for Shropshire hay fever rise“.

Now the EU stands accused by Dr Madsen Pirie in the Times of being responsible for this perceived allergy misery: “What’s lurid, yellow and makes you sneeze?  Ask the EU“, (21 May 2015).

But the amount of rapeseed currently growing in the UK is not the result of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The CAP subsidy system has been reformed considerably over the last quarter of a century. It is now extremely market-oriented and decoupled from production, a direction strongly supported by the UK government.

That means farmers decide what to produce on the basis of what the market pays, rather than because of a specific subsidy for particular crops. This change was made back in the 1990s.

Dr Pirie is on the other hand quite right to say that the EU is no longer directly or indirectly encouraging the growing of rapeseed for bio-fuels and is instead promoting non-food sources for bio-fuels.

Indeed, the European Commission has said that there should be no support at all for food crop based biofuels after 2020.

Meanwhile, in April this year, the EU decided to limit at 7% the contribution food crop based biofuels (including biodiesel from rapeseed oil) can make towards achieving the 10% target for renewable energy in transport in 2020.

So if the amount of rapeseed being planted continues to increase it is not because of EU intervention in the market. On the contrary, it is all about the market mechanism of supply increasing to meet rising demand.

There is now an abundance of British produced rapeseed oil products each with their own regional flavour (Somerset, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Yorkshire, Northumbria, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Sussex, Hampshire and Aberdeenshire).

Finally, our job is to set the facts straight about EU involvement and not to take sides in medical debates.

But interesting to note that many experts, like Professor Pamela Ewan, consultant allergist at Addenbrookes Hospital here, say that common (or garden) grass – which really is everywhere – is anyway more likely than rapeseed to give you hay fever.

 

 

 

 

Agriculture myths: cropping the facts on the “three crop rule”

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
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Rating: 3.5/5 (33 votes cast)

James Forsyth’s claims in the Daily Mail on 9 November that Environment Secretary Liz Truss wants to stop the European Commission from “telling British farmers what they can grow ” through “a Commission edict – the three crop rule”.

This is puzzling on at least two counts.

First, the European Commission cannot issue “edicts” but only propose new EU legislation. It is elected MEPs and elected EU government ministers who scrutinise these proposals and ultimately decide whether to amend, adopt or reject them.
Second, the UK voted last December for the very measure Mr Forsyth is writing about.

The “three crop rule” – or in other words crop diversification – was adopted unanimously by EU agricultural ministers in December 2013 as part of the latest package of CAP reforms.

The reforms address environmental concerns related to pressures that modern farming has put on water, soil, farmland habitats and related biodiversity, as well as contributing to tackling climate change. Monoculture, for example, reduces soil fertility and increases demand for fertilisers and plant protection products, which in turn can lead to water pollution and harm biodiversity.

The new obligations will not be required of all farmers. Only farms with more than 30 hectares of arable land will need to grow three crops. Farm of more than 10 hectares will be required to grow two crops and small farms will be excluded from all “greening” requirements.

Ten things Europe has done for the UK – and others – since the last European Parliament elections in 2009

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
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Rating: 4.3/5 (13 votes cast)

With the European Parliament elections coming up this week, here are some highlights of the work the EU has done over the last five years. The results of the elections on 22 May will be crucial in deciding how all this will be pursued over the next five years.

Since 2009, Europe has, among other things:

1/ Taken tough measures to regulate the financial sector properly
2/ Given consumers a better deal
3/ Massively boosted research, innovation and science
4/ Cut red tape
5/ Taken big steps to tackle climate change and make the EU more energy efficient and independent
6/ Acted to protect the environment
7/ Given young people more chances to benefit directly from EU funds
8/ Protected animal welfare
9/ Modernised the EU budget and focused it on growth and jobs
10/ Reformed agriculture and fisheries policies

This is not an exhaustive list. Foreign affairs issues and trade and development issues, for example, are not included here.

We focus on things that are important to the British public and to British business and pick out mostly areas where the European Parliament, as well as the European Commission, has played a key role.

Fundamentally, all of these policies aim to create sustainable growth and jobs.

More information on all of the areas mentioned can be found via the onward links below.

 

1/Taken tough measures to regulate the financial sector properly

One of the main reasons for the crisis which began in 2007 and from which most of the EU is only now beginning to emerge was lax regulation of banking and financial services.

The EU has addressed this comprehensively with a far-reaching programme of reform, with over 40 new EU laws adopted, to encourage long-term investment and sensible lending and to prevent reckless risk-taking and future crises.

Other jurisdictions, particularly the United States, have also implemented radical reforms, following G20 commitments which the EU took a lead role in negotiating.

The UK has always been a strong supporter of the single market in financial services and has played a leading role in negotiating the reforms, based on proposals by the Commission and in agreement with the European Parliament, where the relevant committee has been chaired by a British MEP.

Last week, the Commission issued an overview of the progress made and of the macro-economic benefits expected from the measures taken: for example, reforms in the banking sector alone are estimated to boost EU GDP by about 0.6-1.1% per year (or about €75-140 billion per year, based on 2013 EU GDP).

 

2/Given consumers a better deal

The EU has forced further drastic cuts to cross-border mobile telephone and data (roaming) charges. Overall, the EU has slashed roaming costs by 50% for calls and 93% for data

Air passenger rights have been strengthened so that cancellations and endless delays without compensation are becoming a thing of the past. What is more, similar rights have been extended to other forms of transport.

Food safety measures have been reinforced, partly in response to the horsemeat scandal.

Electronic appliances are becoming greener and cheaper to run thanks to tough new eco-design standards and clearer labelling.

Consumer rights, notably for purchases made across borders, are also now stronger than five years ago. The Commission is currently running a campaign to inform businesses and consumers about their rights and obligations.

What is more, thanks to new EU wide provisions for Alternative Dispute Resolution, consumers will soon be able to solve any dispute with EU-based traders – including online traders – without going to court.

 

3/Massively boosted European research, innovation and science

Through stiff Europe-wide competition, EU research and innovation funding drives standards higher than national funding schemes alone ever could.

Most of the EU budget has been cut. But funding for research and innovation will go up by nearly 40% to EUR 80 billion under the new Horizon 2020 programme. Horizon 2020 has a clear focus on global challenges like cancer, climate change and the security of energy and food supplies.

There will be big boosts for the European Research Council, which funds cutting edge work by Europe’s leading established and up and coming researchers and for the European Institute of Technology and Innovation, which focuses on turning new ideas into the hi-tech products of tomorrow.

UK researchers, universities and businesses got about EUR 8 bn/£6.6 bn from the 2007-13 programme – that is set to increase to about EUR 12 bn/£10 bn under Horizon 2020, if the UK maintains the same level of performance.

Among other steps forward in the fields of science and innovation have been the adoption – at last – of a European patent that will boost incentives to innovate and save business billions.

Also noteworthy is the launch of the first satellites under the Galileo programme for global satellite navigation and the Copernicus European system for monitoring the Earth, which will help prevent and respond to natural disasters .

 

4/Cut red tape

The natural tendency of much EU regulation is to reduce red tape by replacing the need for businesses to comply with 28 different sets of regulation to operate EU-wide with the requirement to comply with just one set of rules

But the burden of regulation – whether EU or national – on businesses and citizens needs to be as light as is consistent with protecting the public interest.

So over the last five years, both the European Commission and the European Parliament have – often in cooperation with the UK government among others – made cutting red tape a top priority.

In its review of cuts to EU red tape in late 2013, the Commission identified a decrease of 26% of administrative burden for businesses between 2008 and 2012, equivalent to savings of about EUR 32bn/£26 bn per year.

Some examples of the steps taken are listed here. They include among many other things reform of public procurement, exempting micro-enterprises from much EU law, VAT and customs reforms and changes making it easier for people to get their professional qualifications recognised in other Member States

The EU has also introduced a new financial regulation making it much easier to apply for EU funds and manage them if awarded.

 

5/Taken big steps to tackle climate change and make the EU more energy efficient and independent

EU energy policy over the last five years has aimed to boost energy efficiency, increase use of renewable energy (thus also cutting dependence on imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East) , cut emissions and build a true single market in energy that will help ensure security of supply and keep energy costs lower than they otherwise would be.

The European Commission put forward in December 2013 a new energy and climate change package with targets for 2030, including 40% cut in emissions compared to 1990 and getting the share of renewable energy in the EU energy mix up to 27%.

The new European Parliament will by early next year consider the Commission’s review of the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive, which will be key to achieving both the 2030 targets and the existing targets for 2020.

 

6/Acted to protect the environment

The EU is tackling diesel and other air pollution which costs 29 000 lives per year in the UK alone, according to government data.

The number of zones where limits on health-damaging particles are being exceeded dropped by about 25% between 2008 and 2012. But air pollution remains far too high in many places. The Commission is taking legal action against the UK and other Member States to ensure compliance with rules they and the European Parliament agreed several years ago.

Largely as a result of EU action, the proportion of rubbish being recycled or composted across the EU has doubled from 21% in 2001 to 42% in 2012. Less is therefore going to landfill sites which can pollute the water table and cause other environmental problems. But more work on this is necessary if targets for each Member State to reach 50% by 2020 are to be reached.

The EU has adopted a far-reaching Environmental Action Programme for 2014-2020. It aims to protect nature and strengthen ecological resilience, boost resource-efficient, low-carbon growth, and reduce threats to human health and wellbeing. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States will all have a key role in delivering it and updating it.

 

7/Given young people more chances to benefit directly from EU funds

The new Erasmus+ programme brings together and simplifies a series of earlier schemes, introduces new strands and greatly expands opportunities not only for students to study in EU countries other than their own, but also for teachers, school pupils, apprentices, volunteers, young entrepreneurs and others to benefit from training, exchanging best practice and networking across the EU.

The seven year programme will have a budget of €14.7 billion, a 40% increase compared to current spending levels. Four million people are expected to take part.

Along with research and innovation, this is one of the very few areas to see an increase in EU budget for 2014-2020.

 

8/Protected animal welfare

Among the EU-level progress made over the last five years to improve animal welfare has been the implementation – though further efforts are still necessary in some Member States -of bans on cruel treatment of laying hens and of pigs and an end to sales in the EU of cosmetics tested on animals.

The Commission has also put forward an animal welfare strategy which will cover the beginning of the next mandate and asks the European Parliament and Member States to take further decisions.

 

9/Modernised the EU budget and focused it on growth and jobs

The EU budget amounts to only about 1% of GDP and about 2% of public spending in the EU. But it is economically, politically and strategically important for Europe’s future.

So there were many months of tough discussions between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States over the EU budgetary framework for 2014-2020.

These resulted in an overall cut to the budget compared to the previous seven years.

Less widely covered in the media was the major reform to the composition of the budget to focus it much more clearly on creating growth and jobs –all the EU institutions agreed on the need for that, even if the detail took a lot of hammering out! The result sees funding boosts for infrastructure projects, research and innovation and education (see above), while the share spent on agriculture (see below) will go down.

 

10/Reformed agriculture and fisheries policies

For 2014-2020, the EU has radically redesigned both the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The CAP is now much more efficient, greener and more equitable. Over the next seven years, the new CAP will invest almost EUR 25 billion in the UK farming sector and in rural areas. The budget for direct payments to farmers in the UK will remain stable despite a reduction of 3.2% at EU level. 30% of direct payments will be linked to environmentally-friendly farming practices.

Millions of fish will no longer be thrown back dead in to the sea thanks to the changes to the CFP.

The UK played a key role in these agriculture and fisheries reforms, alongside the Commission and Parliament

For a more complete picture of progress over the last five years, please see this recent round up by the European Commission.

Potato prices set to soar due to bad crop and EU rules

Wednesday, January 18th, 1995
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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Myth: The price of a bag of chips is set to soar due to the rocketing cost of potatoes. A universally poor potato crop throughout Europe, combined with EU rules, has meant that continentals are able to grab British stocks, forcing up the price immensely.
Source: The Sun (18th January 1995)

Response: The fact that the potato has suffered a bad season and stocks are being brought up
by others keen to supplement their own ailing markets has nothing to do with the EU, its Common Agricultural Policy nor the Single Market. Indeed there is no Common Market Organisation in the field of potatoes, thus the EU has no powers to regulate the market. The fact that traders from continental Europe are buying British potatoes, at a higher price than normal, is their way of dealing with an unusually poor crop.

CAP subsidies: are they out of control and why can’t the EC stop th efraud?

Sunday, August 1st, 1993
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Myth: EC spending on agriculture is out of control, with subsidies having risen by some 6% from 1991 to 1992 when in fact they were supposed to have fallen. It is, furthermore, subject to fraud on an unprecedented scale.

Truth: In fact, EC subsidies in agriculture were lowered by 7% (in terms of ECU) for the above period. However, with sterling’s devaluation this figure was translated into a 6% rise in pounds sterling.

It has to be borne in mind that the detection of fraud is principally up to the Member States’ national authorities rather than the European Commission.

Set-aside and wild birds and game

Monday, May 10th, 1993
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Myth: New rules from the European Commission governing the running of the EC’s Common Agricultural Policy stipulate that farmers wishing to claim set-aside must mow their land before July 1 or return those fields to cultivation immmediately. The former will result in the massacre of wild birds, game, fawns and flora; and there is little incentive for farmers to delay mowing.

Response: This ought not be the case. There are two pieces of EC legislation which have a bearing in this field, the first of which deals with the set aside system, the second with its actual implementation, which the Member States are left to conduct under a general EC framework.

1.) Council Directive OJ L181, 1.7.1992 establishes a support system for producers of certain arable crops (especially cereals) which will come into effect from the marketing year 1993/1994 onwards. These producers are required to set aside 15% of their land, subject to rotation (this percentage will be re-examined at a later date to take account of production and market developments). The areas set aside as temporary fallow can be used, however, for non-food purposes and must be cared for so as to meet certain minimum environmental standards.

2.) Commission Regulation OJ L221, 6.8.1992 lays down the rules governing land set aside, and stipulates that this must not be put to any lucrative use (in the interest of subsidiarity the implementation and monitoring procedures for this are left to the Member State), and that it must remain set aside for a minimum period of seven months, commencing on December 15 at the earliest and ending on August 15 at the latest. The exact dates set, in this case the July 1 deadline, is left to the Member States. This regulation also specifies that it is the task of the Member State to adopt appropriate provisions in a manner respectful of the environment.

It has been proposed that in the future Community law specifically should address the problem of certain agricultural methods being employed during the nesting season.

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