Monday, October 13, 2014

Phil Hogan approved as commissioner

Phil Hogan has been approved as agriculture commissioner by a majority of over three to one in the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. He was asked some awkward questions about his career in Irish politics, as well as some standard agricultural questions, but did not encounter the level of difficulty experienced by some candidates for commissioner roles: Phil Hogan

He said that he would review the CAP in 2016 after one year of the new policy mix with particular reference to direct payments and the arrangements on greening and ecological focus. However, he said that his immediate priority was responding to the Russian ban on the import of EU agricultural products.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Greening of CAP has been a failure

Researchers have suggested that the 'greening' of the CAP has been a failure. The latest version of the CAP is no greener than its predecessor and would fail a basic Advertising Standards Authority test in terms of its claims: No greening

The researchers conclude that it fails to encourage greater wildlife abundance or adequate protection for vulnerable habitats such as grasslands.

I would not wish to dispute the specific conclusions made. Policy instruments have often not been well designed and policy effectiveness insufficiently monitored. The sums of money available do not match the scale of the challenge, but have often not been well used.

However, one must beware of reducing environmental policy to the protection of biodiversity or landscape effects. Reducing water pollution from agricultural activities has been a key policy objective and some progress has been made. Climate change mitigation is surely the key objective, but little progress has been made, despite the contribution of modern agriculture to greenhouse gases.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

The rise in farmland prices

Over the past decade farmland prices have grown at twice the rate of prime London property with good agricultural land increasing 270 per cent in value compared with a 135 per cent rise in London house prices during that time according to Savills. This makes it three times the price of farmland in North America and 15 times the price of such land in Australia, reports The Economist.

The reasons cited include limited and diminishing supply and constraints on world food supply. However, it should be pointed out that a lot of land in reach in London is bought at least in part as sporting estates which offer the additional incentives of a safe haven for money and tax breaks, such as exemption from inheritance tax after seven years.

However, of course, a lot of the demand is driven by farmers themselves. Economies of scale demand bigger units and although land can be rented, this may not offer security of tenure and often results in a patchwork quilt of land which means that time and money is taken up moving equipment around, not to mention complaints about slow moving agricultural vehicles on the roads.

What this means is that it is now very difficult to get into farming on your account unless you inherit a farm or a large pot of money. This has been exacerbated by the decline of county council entry level smallholdings. This means that farming is deprived of people who might bring in a fresh perspective and innovative ideas.

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