Young farmers on an industry development scheme got the chance to meet leading MEPs and learn about the working of the European Parliament during a trip to Brussels.
The group of 17 is from the National Farmers' Union's Cereals Development Programme, comprising cereal and arable farmers in their 20s and early 30s who are seen as future leaders in the sector. They had lunch with prominent British members of the Parliament's Agriculture Committee, visited the hemicycle debating chamber and heard in detail how EU law is shaped by the key institutions the Parliament, EU Commission and Council of Ministers.
They were hosted by Anthea McIntyre, the West Midlands MEP and Conservative agriculture spokesman in Brussels, and also met MEPs James Nicholson (Northern Ireland), John Procter (Yorkshire and the Humber) and Julie Girling (South West).
Miss McIntyre took them through the different ways MEPs can influence new legislation and outlined some of her key projects - including her work to stave off a potential ban on the herbicide glyphosate. She also spoke of her campaign to promote enhanced use of technology in agriculture through methods such as robotics, precision spraying and gene editing.
Miss McIntyre said: "This important NFU programme is really about preparing young, bright, inquiring farmers to lead their industry into the future. It will help them to better understand the political process and how best to engage with policy-makers - and I was hugely impressed by their keen interest and their incisive questions.
"It was also useful for them to see how decisions in here in Brussels will continue to have an impact on UK farmers after Brexit."
The drive for better lawmaking in the European Union must continue even after Brexit.
That was the message when Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, addressed a meeting on better regulation organised in Brussels by the European Small Business Alliance (ESBA).
Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament and Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group’s Policy Forum on Better-Regulation, said: "I have always championed the idea that businesses create jobs, not EU growth plans or regulation."
She outlined a policy report on her brainchild the EU Annual Burden Survey - a yearly stock-check of the impact of regulation on enterprise - and she presented a copy to Commission Vice President Franz Timmermans.
She praised Mr Timmermans's drive for better regulation and said she was pleased the survey (ABS) had been adopted. However, she warned: "The challenge for the institutions is to ensure that the ABS does not become a missed opportunity.
"Delivering legislation that works in practice is key to facilitating the growth and development of SMEs in Europe.
"While we may have created a simple piece of legislation at Union level which we believe is easy for businesses and especially SMEs to understand and comply with - how can we be sure that when it’s transposed into national legislation it remains like that?
"I am so grateful for the excellent help of ESBA, and in particular of Patrick Gibbels, in producing a policy paper setting out how the Annual Burden Survey could be used to draw comparisons, on an annual basis, on the way individual pieces of legislation have been transposed at the national level by each member state.
"The Annual Burden Survey as set out in the policy paper will help identify cases of unnecessary gold-plating in Member States. I believe that by bringing such transparency to the legislative process - we can ensure that legislation remains simple, clear and enforceable for our SMEs."
Mr Timmermans echoed Miss McIntyre's call for continued progress. He cited movement toward better regulation as an achievement of the current Commission - but said it must continue with the next.
"We have not reached the point of no return. What we have gained could still be lost so we must continue to press ahead," he said.
New rules to stop EU supermarket giants squeezing suppliers will continue to protect UK farmers and growers after Brexit, a leading MEP has predicted.
Anthea McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in Brussels, welcomed agreement between the European institutions on a new directive to curb unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agriculture and food supply chain, which was confirmed by the parliament’s Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.
The deal was reached just before Christmas following intensive talks between the European Parliament, Council and Commission, with Miss McIntyre closely involved as negotiator for the parliament's cross-national European Conservative and Reformists group of MEPs.
During the drafting process Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, persuasively encouraged EU legislators to follow the model of the UK’s Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) which protects farmers in their dealings with the top 12 biggest supermarkets.
She told the committee: “I have been proud to see the commission and the parliament use the UK’s Code of Practice GSCOP as one of the bases for this legislation. The EU has recognised the UK as a good example and a leader in combatting unfair trading practices.
“The Directive will protect suppliers with a turnover of up to €350 million from buyers who are substantially larger than they are. I believe this will cover all the Producer Organisations (POs) in the UK.
“Most importantly, the Directive covers suppliers who are outside the EU supplying buyers inside the EU. This ensures that even when the UK leaves the EU our farmers and growers will be protected when trading with our European partners."
The Directive represents a minimum harmonisation, which means that member states may go further to protect their farmers and growers if they choose.
In its detail, it groups all suppliers and retailers into six categories according to their turnover in euros from 0 to 2 million, 2-10 million, 10-50 million, 50-150 million, 150-350 million, and 350 million upwards). Each supplier will be protected in the event that its buyer falls into a higher turnover category.
The unfair trading practices that are outlawed are:
1. The non-respect of a 60-day payment term for non-perishable products;
2. Payment for services not provided;
3. Buyer refusal to provide a written contract on request.
4. Misuse of supplier’s confidential information by the buyer;
5. Commercial retaliation or even the threat of such retaliation if the supplier makes use of the rights guaranteed.
6. Payment by the supplier for the examination of customer complaints which are not due to the negligence of the supplier.
7. Payment delays for perishable products (over 30 days);
8. Unilateral and retroactive changes to supply agreements;
9. Cancellation of orders for perishable products with short notice;
10. Payment for the deterioration of products already sold and delivered to the buyer.
The Directive also identifies “grey” practices which are prohibited unless they are agreed in a transparent manner and before the beginning of the supply agreement.
1. Transfer of advertising costs to the supplier, in addition to the transfer of costs for promotion and marketing proposed by the Commission;
2. Payments for the management of the product once it has been delivered.
3. Return of unsold products;
4. Payments to become a supplier or for the stocking, displaying or listing of products;
5. Payments for promotional costs;
6. Payments for marketing costs.
Confidentiality of suppliers will be guaranteed after it was found that they were often discouraged from complaining due to fear of retaliation. It will also be possible for suppliers' organisations, representative organisations and NGOs to file a complaint on behalf of their members, further guaranteeing the anonymity of the complainant.
The European Commission will create a website through which information on individual national enforcement authorities will be clearly identified.
Anthea McIntyre MEP, Conservative agriculture spokesman, has spoken out against a report on pesticides which she says misrepresents the findings of the European Parliament's own researchers and seeks to undermine public trust in much-needed plant protection products.
Miss Mcintyre delivered a scathing criticism of the report which has been drawn up the parliament's Environment Committee when it was debated at Strasbourg's plenary sitting of the house.
She told the Parliament: “It is very important that we have a science based, evidence based approval process...and we do! This is a very rigorous process.”
The negative report is authored by Czech Socialist MEP Pavel Poc and purports to assess how effectively the European Union's most recent Regulation on Plant Protection Products (PPPs) has been implemented since it came into force seven years ago.
However, Miss McIntyre sees it as part of a wider campaign by the Left and ecological extremists to create a climate of fear over PPPs and to erode public confidence in the safety of the authorisation process.
Mr Poc asserts that practical implementation of the regulation does not deliver complete assurance over protection over public health in its three main areas - approvals, authorisations or enforcement.
Miss McIntyre says the report misrepresents the findings of a 588-page study ran up by the European Parliament Research Service to provide detailed analysis for the report.
In particular, it misleadingly notes that the precautionary principle is not being followed in the approval of pesticides, that there is increasing use of emergency authorisations (which are occasionally needed by niche growers), and that national inspection authorities are chronically understaffed.
The report comes as as a Special Committee on Pesticides, set up at the insistence of Green and Socialist MEPs, begins to consider its own recommendations on the authorisation or PPS following a lengthy deadlock over the re-licensing of the popular weedkiller glyphosate.
Miss McIntyre told MEPs: “It is simply not true to say that the precautionary principle is clearly not being applied in the context of risk analysis and pesticides. No doubt there are problems with the implementation in member states, but the answer is not new regulation.
“We need to enforce the regulation we have and a part of that is the possibility of emergency uses.
“This is not national governments flouting the regulation, it is national governments responding to the specific needs of their farmers and their agriculture.”
A West Midlands farmer was in Brussels this week to take his message about safe use of pesticides directly to lawmakers in the European Parliament.
John Chinn's business Cobrey Farms in Coughton, Ross on Wye, is Britain's biggest asparagus producer.
He addressed the parliament's Special Committee on Pesticides at the invitation of West Midlands Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre.
Mr Chinn, who also grows berries, beans and other crops, spoke about the work of the Centre for Crop Health and Protection, one of four agri-tech innovation centres set up by UK Government, which he chairs.
He warned MEPs that the world population of 7.6 billion people would reach 10 billion by 2050, and the great challenge of the 21st century was to produce more food from the same area while protecting biodiversity.
He said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the European Crop Protection Association estimated that without crop protection tools farmers could lose 80 per cent of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant diseases.
However, he outlined how developments such as targeted chemistry, use of biological control agents, targeted application technologies and progress in plant breeding and genetics could combine to ensure the production of safe, healthy, nutritious, affordable food with ever better care for the environment.
He described the EU approval process for plant protection products as one of the most stringent in the world and said it took over 11 years, an average of 200 scientific studies and more than 250 million euros to bring a product to the EU market.
And he warned MEPs: "Rigorous testing and application protocols are very effective in protecting the public and the environment. However little attention has been given to its other aims of effectively supporting productive and competitive agriculture and horticulture.
"The fact that the regulation has just started its eighth year and it has only brought to the market the equivalent of about one new active substance per year, including low-risk substances, demonstrates the approach is failing to deliver for growers.
"For a regulation committed to help innovation and support the industry, this is a categoric failure that stifles the availability of safer, more effective and lower risk pesticides," he told the committee, set up to re-asses the way plant protection products are regulated in response to controversy over the re-licensing of the weedkiller glyphosate.
"The collection of even the very best data about pesticides (on exposures, effects, distributions or persistence) will never answer the concerns that some people have about their use, and non-rationalmyths may force social and political changes.
"Scepticism about received truths has long been a common attitude in opinion formers. EU regulators need to rise above this."
Miss McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in the parliament, said: "This committee was set up with a specific agenda to undermine trust in plant protection products - so I was determined that it would hear from a real life farmer who is also an expert in this area.
"He told the MEPs a few home truths - not only about the industry's real needs but also about very practical ways of limiting the use of products while improving the environment.
"His message about listening to science instead of myths and scaremongering was very powerful."
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