Farming Presidents lead lobbying offensive in Brussels

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

The presidents of the four UK farming unions are in Brussels this week on a major lobbying offensive. The lack of detail on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) implementation, availability of plant protection products, the Russian ban and ongoing trade negotiations is top of their agendas when they meet with MEPs, senior Commission and UK Government officials and other European farming union representatives.

Gail Soutar, Director of the UK farming unions’ Brussels office said: “2014 is a year of political change in Brussels. We have new MEPs in office now and we will have a new Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development in post from the 1 November.  Our Presidents will be putting the concerns of their members directly to those who can deliver change.  We will be building alliances with European farm organisations, highlighting key political concerns with MEPs, impressing the need for realism on senior Commission officials as they set about rule making, meeting UK and regional Government officials to share insights and international partners to identify trading opportunities.”

Ulster Farmers Union president Ian Marshall said: “The Russian trade ban has placed further pressure on what is an already weak European and global dairy market. The signs of that impact on the European market are now showing through as UK prices start to track EU prices. The plans for market management measures in the shape of private storage aid and intervention is a positive reaction by the Commission, but we need to make sure this product is not dumped on an already depressed market in the months ahead. We want the Commission to monitor the EU milk market closely, focus much greater efforts on securing new export markets and overcoming some of the current barriers to export.”

Nigel Miller, President of NFU Scotland said: “The new CAP is due to enter into force on 1 January, but the details are not yet there. For many farmers time has already run out. Cropping plans were made a long time ago and crops are in the ground. Officials don’t seem to grasp just how much uncertainty and confusion remains on the ground amongst farmers. The UK administrations are struggling to make guidance available because the EU administrators haven’t told them what needs to be done in order to fully comply and pass future EU audits. The person who will ultimately lose out from this impasse is the farmer. That’s not fair. I want tolerances and a light touch for compliance in the early years whilst the new rules bed in.”

Meurig Raymond, President of NFU England and Wales will host a dinner for UK and European MEPs.  He added: “MEPs will be challenging Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan on the 2 October. We have an excellent opportunity to work with MEPs to influence how the Parliament plans to shape the new Commissioner’s political priorities for the next five years.  

“The EU’s approach on plant protection products is already manifesting itself on the ground. Farmers are struggling to establish crops such as oilseed rape, attacked by pests previously controlled by protection products now banned by the EU. Whilst the rest of the world embraces science based solutions, the EU grapples with a highly charged debate on the application of modern technology in farming. I want to see the EU’s decisions based on science and not emotion.     

Stephen James, NFU Cymru will be meeting all the Welsh MEPs and senior commission officials to discuss the main issues affecting Welsh Agriculture.  He said: “Europe and the decisions it makes have a huge impact on the day to day lives of Welsh Farmers.  NFU Cymru is in a fantastic position to have a full time office and staff based in Brussels representing the interests of Welsh Farmers. I will be taking this opportunity to discuss a range of issues including CAP, greening, cross compliance, EID tolerance, TSE’s and the future shape of RDP all of which have are hugely significant to our membership.”