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Is UKIP really an anti-CAP subsidy party?

June 24, 2013 4:51 PM
By Dr Alan Bullion in British Influence
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

With the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) breathing down the necks of Britain's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, it is timely to more closely examine their policies on European agriculture.

UKIP agricultural policy is not particularly coherent as a whole, although we can discern from their European spokesman Stuart Agnew, that they are vehemently anti-Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy, firmly against more "touch feely" greening and set-aside measures, anti-biofuels and renewables such as wind farms and solar panels on farmland, pro-GM crops, and anti-organic farming subsidies.

This follows their usual rhetoric of being against almost every existing measure, but unclear with what would replace it.

According to Agnew, a poultry farmer, with 27 member states and growing with the imminent inclusion of Croatia, the "EU has become far too big to have a CAP. We are looking at countries which have 350 horsepower tractors versus countries that have draft oxen. We are looking at a latitude that extends 200 miles north of the Arctic circle, down to the bottom corner of Cyprus. Personally, I don't think it is viable, particularly with all the different languages involved."

He is equally critical of the UK's contribution to the EU budget. "In the UK we are the second largest net contributor to the budget and it worries me that we have so little control over how that money is spent."

On the Single Farm Payment, Stuart Agnew maintains that this will "inevitably diminish over time because of strong budgetary pressures and the EU's relentless expansion to the south and the east, where all these new countries will want their share of a diminishing cake."

Agnew is also a vehement climate change sceptic. "I'm very worried that farmers are supposed to be able to change the climate. I think this is utter nonsense. I disagree entirely that CO2 levels have anything to do with the way our climate works. I believe this (the climate) is influenced by solar cycles, lunar cycles, jet streams and ocean currents," he told an audience of young Northern Irish farmers.

Agnew is likewise critical of renewable energy subsidies: "Farmers like it when they are paid huge subsidies to have wind turbines or solar panels on their land. Many of them still think that these subsidies come from the taxpayer. Actually, they don't. They come from electricity consumers, who may well be very poor, individually. So what we are seeing is a reverse of the Robin Hood principle. We are robbing the poor to pay the rich. It is absolutely disgraceful."

On animal welfare, he is against further regulation on live animal transportation from ports such as Ramsgate, while on the EU's efforts to get farmers to reduce the methane output of their sheep and cattle, Agnew has described the concept as "a load of bullocks!"

In line with the UK government, Agnew was also against any bans on the use of insecticides from the neonicotinoid group. "By banning products like this, that have already been through stringent safety tests, without peer reviewed scientific evidence, the Commission risks de-motivating the enterprise that brings solutions to crop protection. The Green lobby, which has pushed so hard for this ban, may now be left with some awkward choices."

Another aspect that attracts UKIP ire is EU food law. During a debate in the European Parliament on the horsemeat scandal, Agnew has described the UK agriculture secretary Owen Paterson as being "as impotent as a bullock or a gelding" in attempting to deal with the horsemeat issue, even though he shares UKIP's pro-GM crops stance.

"13 years ago the British Government stupidly allowed the EU to have total competence over all aspects of food law. What has been uncovered in recent weeks is a demonstration of gross incompetence. The paper trail system that the EU has adopted to assure the provenance of produce is wide open to fraud and, as the EU becomes ever larger, it expands into countries where fraud and corruption are a simple fact of life," Agnew concluded.

Under the previous system operated by the British Government, he maintained that "the substitution of horse for beef would have been easily detected."

However, Conservative MEPs have challenged UKIP to explain why it voted on March 13 to support 'coupled payments' for tobacco-growers in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe under amendment 72 in the Direct Payments regulation, while claiming to be an anti-EU subsidy party.

Conservative agriculture spokesman Julie Girling said an analysis of voting records further revealed UKIP MEPs moved to block measures to scrap the "costly and outdated system" of quotas for milk, sugar and wine by supporting Amendment 90, Proposal for a regulation on the single common market organisation (Single CMO) Recital 146.

"On the same day they abstained on two amendments, 435 and 453. If these amendments had succeeded they would have thwarted proposals to extend the rules to allow producer organisations to control non-members and to charge them fees.

"Conservatives, Liberal Democrat and Labour MEPs all voted against, but UKIP MEPs' abstention effectively allowed through a proposal which will make life harder for efficient farmers, will increase prices for consumers, and will seek to impose a French-style agricultural model on all other EU states."

Girling concluded: "Here we see UKIP supporting measures that push up the price of sugar for British families by up to half as much again. Then they vote to prop up the discredited system which has done so much harm to the British dairy industry. I don't know how they will face British farmers or shoppers again."

But face them they did in the May county council elections, and the Conservatives lost many seats to UKIP in farming areas, such as Kent, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. UKIP also apparently sees no contradiction in calling for an end to immigration from Bulgaria and Romania, while supporting their tobacco sectors.

About the Author

Dr Alan Bullion

Dr Alan Bullion is the Liberal Democrat Prospective European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England and Head of Analysis Team for Informa Agra.