The NFU has warned of the potential for damaging impacts on farmers in England and Wales and on global land use patterns if biofuel production is exported from Europe.
It comes in the run up to the Environment Council on March 21, where the European Commission’s Proposal to address Indirect Land use Change (ILUC) will be discussed. If implemented in line with DfT policy it will lead to a contracting of the European biofuel market by 30-40 per cent, removing an important market for farmers across England and Wales.
In a letter sent to Defra Minister Lord de Mauley, NFU President Peter Kendall has expressed his concern at the superficial understanding of agriculture and evidence on the ground within the proposal. The original objective was to prevent EU member states exporting food production to third countries, resulting in deforestation. But the Proposal will, through blunt caps and ILUC factors, further marginalise land that is already underutilised for food production within countries in Europe like the UK.
Mr Kendall said: “Numerous Member States have already expressed their grave concerns about the accuracy of modelling ILUC and the evidence opposing the policy in this form is clear. For an evidence-based department like Defra, the current proposals present a real opportunity to adapt this emerging policy toward a clear and sound scientific base.
“A poorly designed ILUC policy in response to an over–simplified message from social campaign groups will fail sustainable agriculture, green growth in our economy and the UK Government’s commitment to evidence-based policy.”
Supporters of the ILUC policy argue about indirect effects that have so far been impossible to prove for over five years, while ignoring the direct effects of biofuel refining in the EU and UK. Following the thinking behind ILUC, the land required for offsetting the loss in production of rapemeal and dried distillers grains and soluble from biofuels would require, for example in South America, 1.3 million hectares of additional land.
The UK biofuel markets add value to basic commodities such as wheat, oilseed rape and sugar beet, extracting co-products, such as biofuel and high protein animal feed in broadly equal measure.
The loss in production of UK domestic animal feed should the proposal be implemented in line with Department for Transport policy, will result in Direct Land Use Change. Production of soya beans in South America would have to increase to meet demand from the UK and Europe.