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NFU Reacts to EU Renewable Proposals

18 October 2012, at 8:23am

UK - The National Farmers Union is calling on the EU to forge joined-up policies that support both the production of food and renewable fuel after the European Commission proposed changing key targets and goals that underpin Europe’s emerging biofuels industry.

The Commission proposals are wide-ranging and potentially highly damaging to the UK agricultural industry. However, the proposed five per cent cap on ‘food crops’ with no real justification in evidence and a disproportionate increase in the threshold for greenhouse gas (GHG) savings raise the most serious questions about the efficacy of the proposals.

The changes include increasing the greenhouse gas emissions savings target from 35 per cent emissions saving against fossil fuels to 60 per cent and introducing five per cent cap on cereal, starch, sugar and oilseed crops as feedstocks to produce biofuels.

The NFU believes that these artificial new constraints betray a lack of consideration for the consequences to agricultural production, damaging the original directives’ positive benefits for food, feed and energy with lower environmental impacts, including encouraging crop rotation.

NFU combinable crops board chairman, Andrew Watts, said that the European Commission proposals, which were meant to be aimed at addressing the impacts of indirect Land Use Change, had failed to take into account how the EU and UK biofuels industry was playing an important part in increasing the security and sustainable development of both food and fuel production.

“These proposals are ill-conceived and threaten to de-rail the UK’s renewable energy target of 15 per cent by 2020,” said Mr Watts. “Increasing our reliance on imported protein for animal feed and fossil fuel is a major step backwards.

“These proposals will not just affect the arable sector within the EU and the UK. The co-products from refining biofuels provide sustainable animal feed at a time when livestock producers are facing increasingly high prices for feed. Europe already has a 20-million tonnes deficit in animal feed each year and our pig and poultry sectors in particular have seen a 43 per cent increase in feed costs in the past five years.

“The good work that has been done in reducing our reliance on two million tonnes of imported vegetable protein in order to give our livestock farmers less volatile market conditions for feed is being undone.

“We must also address the environmental impacts of this policy U-turn. Biofuels represent the only realistic means of reducing Europe’s reliance on imported fuel. They help to address GHG emissions in the transport sector, currently estimated at about a quarter of all the EU’s GHG emissions, a figure that is still increasing, and they help to give farmers a profitable break crop for rotation which is good for the land.

“For those that argue this is about food or fuel I say this. The biofuel industry has been helping address the needs of both food and fuel through long-term market stability, flexibility of cropping patterns and bio-refining to produce quality, high protein animal feed. Today’s proposals will only exacerbate the situation of high prices for both food and fuel.

“Instead of removing certainty from the biofuels market we need polices that will send a signal to arable farmers to produce greater quantities of grain for all markets. Both food and fuel is the way forward, this U-turn is not.”

Further Reading

You can view our previous news item on the proposals by clicking here.