Agriculture MEP "Bloody But Unbowed"

20 January 2009
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has hailed a virtual clean sweep in a vote on his Opinion on the updating of the Animal By Products Regulation (ABP).

The vote has seen great strides in freeing up on-farm disposal and containment of fallen stock, as well as massive advances on tallow and biofuels. The measures contained in the Opinion were praised by an NFU spokesperson as "a step in the right direction ... which reduce burdens for farmers at the same time as looking after public, animal and environmental health."

Smith has published a breakdown of the vote on individual amendments, with the final Opinion being approved 32 votes in favour, none against with three abstentions. The breakdown is reproduced as an annex. The Opinion will be influential as the Environment Committee comes to consider the dossier next before the Regulation passes into law, but Smith hopes that the easing of restrictions on fallen stock disposal and containment should be in force by the Autumn and the clarification on ABP as biofuels should take effect now.

Speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"With the work on this opinion covering tallow, rendering, blood, bone, skin, hair, slurry, wool and fur it is hard to claim this is the most glamorous dossier I have ever worked on, never let it be said I won't get my hands dirty! After today's vote I'm bloody but unbowed!

"But it is, joking apart, an important subject for Agriculture in Scotland, as the restrictions on fallen stock disposal and the confused rules on biofuels do make the lives of Scotland's farmers, slaughtermen and renderers more complicated and more expensive. The fifth quarter is a much needed extra source of revenue, and the carbon emissions impact of freeing up this natural, harmless biofuel will be significant environmentally as well as economically.

"I hope I have won a watch today, because where the European Commission was already proposing to ease up the restrictions we have pushed them that bit further, particularly for remote and rural areas. The definition of remote and rural areas will be decided under this legislation by the UK authorities, though I have no doubt Richard Lochhead will make his views known and our addition of the phrase "where access would impose a disproportionate financial or administrative burden" should open the door wide enough to drive a truck through.

"Likewise, the treatment of the valuable by products from ABP biofuels will have a much clearer legal position after today's vote, and the implementation and interpretation of existing legislation should take note immediately. It is ludicrous that glycerol and potassium sulphate, both valuable in their own right, should be viewed as hazardous waste when the science has moved on and they should be another income stream for Scottish farming.

"This vote has been a long time coming, and my work with colleagues on this dossier has been long and unglamorous, but the approval today of a series of sensible steps to put our farmers on the most advantageous economic footing possible makes it worthwhile."