Tractors banned from wet fields by EU ‘puddle police’
Farmers face crippling fines for driving tractors on soggy land under new EU rules introduced yesterday. They will lose support payments if so-called ‘puddle police’ – UK government inspectors responsible for enforcing green agricultural methods – catch them operating on saturated fields. The Government claims the move is necessary to protect the soil on farms. But some farmers believe spy-in-the-sky satellites may even be used to ‘shop’ offenders by photographing churned up ground. There is also widespread incredulity at bizarre EU guidelines – based on the location of puddles – which supposedly define waterlogged farmland…Farmers’ leaders have reacted with anger to the new environmental standards, included in the ‘cross-compliance’ section of the 2005 Common Agricultural policy (CAP).
(Mail on Sunday, 2 January 2005, page 40)
The Mail on Sunday continues to plough a factually dubious furrow in its ongoing turf war against the EU. Major reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) came into force on 1 January 2005. They will make farming more competitive and consumer-friendly, but also include tough new environmental standards. If farmers fail to comply, support payments may be reduced or cancelled. One such requirement is that farmers should use machinery appropriately so as not to damage soil structure.
There is nothing to ban tractors from soggy fields, but member state governments must define minimum standards to ensure land is properly protected. So it is up to the UK government to define the rules in this area, although, contrary to this report, there are no EU guidelines “based on the location of puddles”.