EU Back To Work With A Vengeance

30 August 2011
Alyn Smith MEP has hailed today's EU Parliament Agriculture Committee vote in support of three of his initiatives for pilot projects which could have significant benefits for Scottish farmers.

The meeting started with a stormy intervention from Ulster MEP Jim Nicholson urging the Committee to take the European Commission to task over a series of leaks over the summer of Commission plans on CAP Reform. Smith supported Nicholson's call for the Commission to involve the Committee fully.

Of today's successful votes:

  • the European Prices and Margins Observatory, designed to analyse price movements along the supply chain, establish transparency and identify the actors claiming the largest margins, was renewed for another year;
  • the Commission will be empowered to set up and fund a new platform through which national and local control agencies can exchange best practice and find common solutions to reduce the administrative burden farmers face with cross compliance controls, through the creation primarily of interoperable IT databases and "one stop checks"; and
  • an initiative will be funded to promote research into fine-tuning the reading technology for the electronic identification of sheep, in order to maximise the accuracy of reading and thus prevent farmers from being punished due to non-discretionary technology errors.

Alyn said:

"I'm pleased to have won support for these initiatives. While they may only be pilot projects at this stage, they create the institutional base for expansion, and push our campaigns on fair prices, CAP simplification and sheep EID right onto the Commission's agenda.

"Some national and local authorities are clearly better than others in how they implement European rules and administer their control systems. We need to get them speaking to each other through a simple interface and ensure that the best ideas and practices are spread throughout the EU as quickly as possible. I'm particularly seized by the potential for information technology to simplify the process of farm controls, and if other countries have established successful systems, we need to take a look at them and get it over to Scotland if necessary.

"We all had our strong doubts about the regulation on sheep EID, but now it is law and the Commission have a duty to enforce it. However, the Commission also have a responsibility to make sure that it can be enforced - especially through ensuring that the reading technology is as accurate as possible, so farmers are not exposed to cross compliance penalties through errors not under their control. I was pleased that the Commission gave assurances that the regulation would be enforced flexibly in terms of cross compliance penalties. I believe that we can move forward on this on a second front, by funding efforts to improve the reading technology - that's what this pilot project will do.

"While this was a positive outcome, and reinforced by the retention of funding for the successful School Fruit and School Milk Schemes, I was disappointed that a majority of my colleagues sought to retain the status quo on export refunds and tobacco subsidies. Artificially boosting export prices so food can be dumped on developing nations, thus undermining their farmers, is neither a long nor short term solution. We need to be looking much more closely at reducing input costs and acquiring sustainable techniques: the money saved could be far better used elsewhere."