The ICSA President Patrick Kent is speaking out after it was revealed that new EU Commission plans will slash the target for the crop bio-fuel component of EU transport from 7% to just 3.4% by 2030.

The leaked proposals will undermine previous bio-fuel policies. President Kent says that the leak, which came from a new renewable energy plan by the Commission, ‘flies in the face of logic’.

The Commission, which was supportive of bio-fuels, has now decided to reverse its position without any scientific basis for doing so, says the ICSA.

“What the Commission is proposing to do will deny tillage farmers access to an important income stream and also puts at risk tens of thousands of jobs across Europe. It will end investor interest in EU bio-fuels, with a direct knock on effect on the efforts to revive the Irish sugar industry – proposals which have received the direct support of all of the major political parties in Dáil Éireann and it will make it harder to achieve EU targets to cut GHG emissions from road traffic,” explained Kent.

He added that the ‘most ludicrous’ aspect of the Commission’s planned direction is ‘that the problem which it is trying to solve – the upsurge in palm oil imports into Europe – has nothing to do with European farmers’.

He says that the issue and could be resolved if the Commission and the Member States applied the sustainability criteria set out in EU law and adopted a more differentiated approach to bio-fuels than the simplistic approach now being advanced.

“ICSA wants to see crop based bio-fuels supported because they offer a real option for hard-pressed farmers to make money rather than being totally reliant on food and feed which are in surplus in Europe.

“We see desperate attempts to find new markets for food everywhere from China to Africa which reflects the fact that EU farmers are producing more food and feed than we can consume in Europe. Yet we have spent years listening to lectures about how EU farmers should not be supported to produce excess food which would be then ‘dumped’ in Africa to the detriment of African agriculture,” added Kent.

“Sustainable crop based bio-fuels provide a win-win in Europe. Contrary to the ludicrous notion that forests will be levelled and bogs drained, crop based bio-fuels can fill multiple roles from each hectare grown. A hectare used for bio-fuels still produces top class animal feed as a by-product of the fuel production process.

“As an additional bonus, the by-product feed is higher in protein and thus reduces the need for soya imports from South America. In truth, it is the over-dependence on soya imports that is the real cause of forest destruction albeit in South America. There is no credible evidence of struggling farmers in Europe making totally uneconomic investments to reclaim forest or bog to produce animal feeds for livestock systems that are barely viable in 2016.”

The ICSA president believes that we should stop blindly following the EU Commission, who he says tends to ‘laud the multifunctional character of EU agriculture’.

“In part, this was because both WTO rules and NGO pressures were hostile to policies which subsidised extra food exports from Europe. It is now hypocritical to reverse direction and say that much needed renewable fuels are no longer acceptable and that we should go back to expanding food exports to markets in the least developed countries.”

ICSA calls on all of the parties in Dáil Éireann to live up to the undertakings that they have given on the issue of sugar/bio-fuel production and to reject these proposals at national and EU level.