Round and round and round again

Letter from Brussels with Stuart Agnew MEP

Ever been stuck behind a slow-moving farm vehicle on a country road with no scope for overtaking? Did the air in your car turn blue? Well, get used to being in this situation a lot more, thanks to the bureaucrats at the European Commission!

Those red tape merchants par excellence have come up with a new wheeze designed to cause maximum disruption to the lives of farmers and motorists. The Commission, as part of its latest CAP reform, is going to interfere with crop rotation.

The average arable farm will grow winter barley, oilseed rape and winter wheat, rotating them annually. This is a tried and tested method for ensuring the absence of root disease.

Unfortunately, the blundering Brussels bureaucrats are going to demand that farmers who are cropping more than eight acres stop this sensible and environmentally friendly system and start growing two or three different crops in the same year.

This is being done to encourage crop rotation – but the change over to the new system will, ironically, result in some continuous cropping in the first year.

The more you look into this new proposal, the crazier it seems. Three different crops require different pesticide treatments at different times. There will be more wastage as, instead of one amount of wasted chemical (there is always a bit left over), there will be three.

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Three different crops will also require separate storage. Three crops also means more part loads on vehicles collecting the crops and all of this is increasing the costs for farmers, when margins are already small.

Under the existing system, smaller farms just hire in equipment to harvest a single crop and the entire farm can be done in one go. Thanks to the Commission, equipment will have to travel to the farm three times, to cover the same area!

This means slow-moving farm vehicles out on country roads three times instead of once. Wear and tear on the vehicles themselves and on the roads they use (these vehicles are heavy) will increase and, ironically, for an organisation obsessed with man-made global warming, these extra journeys will also generate more pollution!

It is well-known in the insurance business that farm vehicles turning right are highly vulnerable. That is when they are most likely to be involved in a road traffic accident. Usually, other vehicles collide with them from behind. Massively increase the number of farm vehicles on our roads and inevitably, there will be a proportionate increase in accidents.

Naturally, as a farmer myself, I am raising merry hell in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee about all this and I will continue to do so. However, if my lone voice is not heard, blame the EU next time you are stuck behind a slow moving farm vehicle!

Stuart Agnew is a UK Independence Party MEP for the Eastern Counties. For further information go to www.stuartagnewmep.co.uk