As we approach the dreaded Euro Elections on Thursday, I have been keeping (or should that be kipping) an eye on some of the claims made by UKIP on matters environmental.
Last week they claimed that every household in the UK would be £400 a year better off if we left the EU, on account of us not having to support the Common Agricultural Policy. I was dubious about this figure and asked (via Twitter – see my timeline for the questions) various UKippers where it came from. After a couple of days the response came back (the tweet has now been deleted – I wonder why?). They had seen an article in the Telegraph from 2009 and a piece from that well known objective and agriculturally expert organisation the Institute for Economic Affairs, the cheerleaders for corporate excess, better known for as the astroturf outfit for the Tobacco Industry. In their paper they claim that the EU pay 17% more for their food than the rest of the world.
Now it could be argued that the Tories also get most of their policy ideas from Think Tanks such as Policy Exchange and the IEA, and the fact that a UKIP policy person was reading the Telegraph (albeit from 5 years ago) rather than the Mail should be seen as a good thing. I expect they have been sent on a re-education course.
Today I stumbled across the UKIP Agriculture policy. Yes UKIP have another policy!
I was so excited I am repeating it in its entirety. Here’s the first bit
Wow, that was pretty amazing wasn’t it. Clearly this level of detail needs careful analysis. I’m not really up to such a complex job (especially on a saturday afternoon) but I will give a try.
Land must be farmed to ELS standard (but grassland farms don’t have to). What is ELS standard for arable farms? ELS is based on choosing from a menu of options, which build points until you get enough points to qualify. There is no ELS standard. This means nothing. Unless of course the UKIP ELS standard is something else entirely.
And what constitutes a grassland farm? I think we should be told. That’s the trouble with subsidies – they create a whole complicated rule set which generates its own bureaucracy….
So – every farmer gets £80 an acre, regardless of what they are doing, up to a cap of £120,000 a year. And that decreases for upland farms on pro-rata basis. I don’t think they have realised that they have to say what the pro-rata would be : 75%, 50%, 10%?
There will be no modulation, so no farm payments will be recirculated back into environmental schemes.
There will be no cross compliance – so no controls on stocking numbers, no controls on soil protection, no controls on when and where fertiliser or pesticides are applied, no controls on destroying landscape features or habitats or species.
There will be no set-aside – err that has gone anyway.
This is beginning to sound like the Bruces sketch “rule 6: there is no …… rule 6″
There will be no EFA payments. I guess that means no greening.
UKIP will re-introduce coupled payments called headage payments – that is they will provide a subsidy (of unknown value) per head of animals, which inevitably leads to an increase in the number of sheep on the hills and the overgrazing and all that entails (including downstream flooding). I guess George Monbiot must have said something to upset them – though I can’t imagine what.
Now this is my favourite policy:
Applicants must be risk-takers.
what does this mean? Will every applicant for UKIP farm support be required to do a parachute jump annually? Will they have to go on an assault course, or just show risky behaviour. I would like to see more detail on this test, it sounds fantastic. Especially for those aging upland hill farmers – ” I’m sorry sir, you can’t have your headage payment for those extra sheep until you’ve eaten this 2 week old pork pie.”
The final bits have been thought through very carefully – no farm subsidies for urban parks (hmm) golf courses (very sensible but how many UKIP supporters might that upset?) and this dastardly renewable energy stuff is going to have an exclusion zone around it, whether the land is farmable or not. That’ll show those greeny commy er farmers.
But wait, there’s more.. it’s UKIP bonfire of the Regulations – this one is going to be really radical.
UKIP will get rid of EIDs for sheep (I think most people think they are a waste of time) and bring back the good old pesticides from the good old days. All of them?
Fallen Stock can be buried on the farm again (seems reasonable) and white asbestos is now safe according to UKIP. Well they must be the experts I guess.
We obviously don’t need Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, as the whole issue of nitrates in drinking water causing cancer is obviously some sort of EU commy plot – right?
And why should we worry about ammonia emanating from intensive livestock units – it’s a fertiliser after all. Who would complain about getting free fertiliser, even if it does whiff enough to make your eyes water. 24/7.
Actually these are a very hotch potch set of regulations being abandoned. Why stop there? Why not allow farm buildings (including houses for farm workers) to be built without planning permission. Why not pay farmers to produce more food – a top up on your farm payment if you exceed the national average for tonnes of wheat per hectare.
What about GMOs – arent they going to be allowed to be grown. Come on UKIP – it’s hardly radical.
Back to UKIP’s claim that leaving the EU will save every household £400 a year. This is based the cost of tariffs that the EU place on food being imported from outside the EU which push the price of food up relatively to world food prices, not the cost of the CAP. In 2011 (latest figures) EU food prices were only 2% above world prices – not the 17% claimed by the IEA. UK households spent on average £57 a week on food and non alcoholic drinks (2012 figures) that totals £2964 a year per household. A 17% increase would equate to £504, but a 2% increase is only £59 a year.
The CAP costs the UK about £3bn a year. Will UKIP’s home grown agricultural subsidies be at a lower cost? Possibly in cash terms (though until we know what the pro rata decrease is for uplands we can’t tell). But even though the current CAP is incredibly deeply flawed, doing away with any form of payment for public goods, whether through cross compliance, greening or agri-environment schemes, would have a cost to society, in terms of environmental damage.
I don’t think UKIP are at all bothered about the environment though. Look at their climate change spokesman.