New plans to spend 40 per cent of the CAP budget on climate action have given anti-glyphosate MEPs on the EU Environment Committee a chance to bid for control of agriculture policy, says Stuart Agnew, UKIP MEP and Agriculture Committee member.
While I serve on the Agriculture Committee (AGRI), the Environment Committee (ENVI) has been starting to throw its weight around.
Hitherto, the decisions on how to allocate the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget had been AGRI’s turf.
But following the announcement of Agriculture Commissioner Hogan that 40 per cent of the future CAP budget must be spent on ‘climate action’, ENVI have made a pitch to take a higher profile in the formal process that will produce the final report, or parliamentary bill.
They believe anything to do with the climate is their responsibility. This is the committee that nearly succeeded in banning glyphosate.
As a way of spiking ENVI’s guns, AGRI stood aside from claiming the lead role on a small Commission proposal called LIFE.
This is a fundholding vehicle to disburse ‘seed corn’ funds for pilot projects intended to improve the environment.
The money comes direct from Brussels and, in practice, is spent in rural areas. If the ideas work, they will later be financed on a much larger scale by the member states through Pillar 2 funds.
The unofficial deal between the two committees is that ENVI will stand aside from claiming the lead role on the far bigger CAP reform proposal.
Even if it is not the lead committee, a committee can get involved by way of composing an ‘opinion’. AGRI are therefore going to put together an ‘opinion’ on the LIFE proposal.
An individual MEP is elected to be the rapporteur; I threw my hat in the ring and, to my astonishment, easily won the vote.
The Greens and the Socialists were furious and demanded a second vote the next day, when more members would be present. However, I had the support of five groups, two opposed and the Communists abstained.
I am not naive enough to believe that the supporting MEPs really want me to do the ‘opinion’, they just want to send a message to the Socialists and the Greens.
Why am I keen to get involved? Because we are witnessing a sea change in what farmers are expected to do.
Farmers are capable of producing more food and/or better quality food, if given the tools and the stimulus. The results can be measured.
Farmers are capable of acts of soil, water or air pollution, but if given the right stimulus and tools, can be persuaded to desist. The results can be measured.
Farmers can create wildlife habitats or improve conditions for certain species if given the tools and the stimulus. The results can be measured.
However, farmers will never, ever be able to change the world’s weather, let alone improve it. They are not capable of influencing solar cycles or ocean currents.
Whatever ‘climate action’ they do take, the results will be impossible to measure. More red tape and less farming will be the only outcomes.
My ‘opinion’ will be based on the premise that farmers will need assistance to adapt to the inevitable cooling of the climate, but cannot influence the ‘Maunder Minimum’ period that will cause the cooling.
It will not be popular!