Monday, May 18, 2020

35-44% EU's Tax Equal to 50 Billion Euro Per Year Paid Mainly To Agri Giants?!

Dear Commissioner For Agriculture,

I didn't include this picture, obviously, in my letter,  but it sums up the situation for farmers trying to work with pollinators  and those that run rough-shod over biodiversity

Przepraszam, nie mówię po polsku, so I hope you do not mind me writing in English. Thank you.

We have at last got the Green Party coming into government in Ireland and negotiating as strongly as possible to prioritize meeting our 7% reduction in carbon emissions. There is a political will and consumer determination to make Ireland the first fully organic Member State of the European Union. However, we need your help. Please would you redirect all our farming subsidies towards the transition? 

The farming community are very worried and resistant to making changes without the financial support of their European funding. They are well able to grow crops, clean fuel and animal feeds and manage orchards. They are interested in old and new natural farming methods that rebuild the soil and are chemical-free. 

Ireland Would Like To Prove That Six Years Chemical Free Will Restore Its Ecosystems and Increase Food Security

As you will understand, every big change requires taking a risk. In transitioning to organic, there are several central aspects; support for the 6-year detox period before organic certification is awarded. During this period, Europe must protect Ireland from cheap, conventionally-farmed imports, so that the market remains secure. We know this is possible, through supermarkets, as regulations are already in place prohibiting some produce like GMOs but there are many other chemicals banned for use in Ireland that are still on our shelves, in produce from other EU countries.

We would also like products wrapped in non-recyclable plastic and those that release micro-plastics to be banned for sale, from the multi-nationals. This will give a chance for our small producers of natural cleaning and cosmetic products to compete.

Organic feed is expensive, so we intend to return to pasture fed animals, calf at foot dairy and mainly crops. Organically reared animals are afforded a higher welfare standard and that will need to be encouraged/financially support. In regard to grain, though, we certainly want to avoid Irish produce having a negative affect on third world countries, as the European grain in Africa has inadvertently caused. 

Apology For Refusing Organic Farming Grants In The Past

We, as a country, apologize for not being ready to accept European grants for organic farming when we were offered them fifteen years ago. The government was unaware of the seriousness of 1) our environment’s degradation and 2) the value of our rainfall and clement climate. The government has also been rather dominated by the meat and dairy industries, the anti-biotics of the pharmaceuticals’ to keep our, intensively housed and too early removed from their mothers, animals alive and the seed-monopolizing and pesticides/fertilizers of the agri-chemical giants. 

We would dearly love to become known as the ‘organic capital of Europe’ rather than the ‘animal testing capital of Europe’, which we are currently, due to our lax welfare regulations enforcement and pharmaceutical sponsoring of our hospitals. 

Environmentally Sound Business’ Recovery Post-Pandemic

Due to the pandemic, the Irish Job market has been hit very hard, as in other countries. Most of our small businesses have shut leaving only supermarkets open. There are, however, many individuals who have had to quarantine, bankrupting their once-sustainable small business but who have found that they could contribute to a social and local economy, better than they could compete in the commercial market. 

The Irish government has endeavoured to protect its citizens and made an emergency payment available. We are endeavouring to do a survey of the recipients of this payment to calculate the percentage that would be willing to work on food and water security and in what way: For example, transitioning farms, be it helping with harvest, planting fruit and nut orchards, weeding and managing crops and hedges manually, rather than chemically and with machinery; provide a local service or produce items, avoiding waste or contamination of water, in exchange for a continued income support. 

There is a shortage of organic mills and other services for organic produce still, as less than 2% of our farms are currently organic but there is a lot of machinery here that could be re-purposed or part-exchanged for the things each crop and sector needs. We would like to re-purpose livestock too, to create manure for rebuilding the soil and to fuel community power generation, rather than just raising for slaughter.  

From Subsidizing Agricultural Chemical and Pharmaceutical Corporations via animal vaccines, antibiotics and sprays, to Subsidizing a Just Transition

Unfortunately, at the moment, all Ireland’s farm subsidies are tied to veterinary, pharmaceutical and agri-chemical treatments. Therefore they just serve to increase the manufacturers’ profits, however toxic and however directly responsible those same corporations are, for weakening and poisoning the food supply and biodiversity, through seed patenting and treating.  

Instead of the ‘animal health’ veterinary shots that the EU is funding, as well as grants awarded to ‘feed lots’ in intensive fattening operations, who do not observe good welfare or feeding practices etc, we ask that Ireland’s farming EU subsidies from this moment forwards are re-directed through the New Green Deal, to what Ireland is calling the ‘Just Transition’. 

We want to produce clean food. We intend to stop live export. We intend to guarantee a fair price for our farmers, for produce. We intend to protect our ground water, coastal waters and conserve our rainwater and fresh water aquifers. We are committed to changes in the spending of our national revenue as well; away from scoping for, or using, fossil fuels, notably natural gas, coal and turf, in the awareness of their beneficial role if left in the ground, as carbon sumps. 

We intend to retract funding from blood sports and stop Halal slaughter, which we are sure is against EU regulations but has crept into the meat industry in Ireland, as a cost-saving method of slaughter that is only justified by an international trade arrangement.  

Introducing Environmental Benefit Clauses To All Subsidy Applications and Awards

The fact remains that we cannot ask the ‘stewards of the land’, the farmers, to make the changes to responsible land and water management without it being tied to a change in EU funding. We also can’t ask the multi-nationals, pharmaceutical, dairy, meat and big technology to adhere to new public health and environmental guidelines unless the EU enforces it. 

It is a matter of including categorical social and environmental benefit clauses, into each subsidy application and award criteria: No chemical preservatives, ripening mechanisms, flavour enhancers, pesticide, herbicide or fungicide or fertilizers to be used. Neither can they be allowed in animal feeds. Equally, a broad invitation to applications that support the transition should be extended: Subsidies must be connected to good practice. The diverse agricultural changes that are needed should not be limited. Farmers willing to experiment with natural fertilizers, new crops and planting techniques, sheltered growing systems, downscaling and providing national or local buying schemes and therefore reducing transportation should be eligible. The details of the distribution can be managed by the Irish Department of Agriculture, as long as the money has not already been promised to the blind growth-driven corporations. 

Raising Animal Welfare Standards

Ireland is also ready to fully recognize the sentience of farm animals and the realization of their 5 freedoms, which we hope will immediately exclude intensive farms, from subsidization. Regulation farm inspections here have become so far removed from animal welfare that they penalize farmers who offer bedding, such as straw, rather than a concrete floor for pigs, on the basis it is easier to manage infections.

There is a growing population of compassionate consumers who avoid animal ingredients altogether.

We see the declaration of a climate change emergency, the resulting New Green Deal and so many Green Party candidates’ election to the Dail as an opportunity we will not have again; to preserve Ireland’s resources and reach our carbon emission and other climate action targets.

At last, there is recognition that Ireland is the only country in the EU, possibly the world, that still gets enough rainfall and we are putting a value on that and ask you to help us protect it –from polluters, such as Shell; from those who would monopolize it, such as Nestle and from big tech, such as those who seek to fell trees and roll out 5G without sufficient long-term studies on its effects on biodiversity and health.

In addition to the power of the industries and corporations, we need help dealing with the banks. As we face into post-Covid recovery plans, the Irish are willing to live more simply, if it means living without extreme debt or uncertainty. Therefore, we ask that EU farming grants be paid into a State-owned bank from now on, to support a move to interest-free lending supports for food security initiatives.

If you correct the EU subsidies, Ireland will create a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system on which you can then model supports for other Member States in transition.

Many thanks and in gratitude for your intervention,
Best regards,
Frances Micklem

Harmony Hall Bioarchitecture Think Tank, Kilkenny, Ireland  

I am a small pig farmer; an author and practitioner of energetic medicine; teacher in plant-based, organic horticulture and nutrition. I have worked as a legal advocate in a meat company Whistle Blowing case. I have been an advocate for farmers’ and animal rights and the environment for twenty years. 

Most recently, I have started exploring policy writing for the system change needed to meet the challenges of corruption, climate change and to correct the absence of compassion, in farming, I am currently working on a contribution to the EU’s CAP Reform Policy.

Prompt Response from Grace O'Sullivan's office:

 Dear Franc
thank you for cc'ing this office with your recent email. Indeed the CAP represents 35% of the EU budget (More than 50 billions of public money per year) and is the main influence on the EU Food and farming system, with massive impacts on the climate, on biodiversity, on health.
Grace as part of the greens/EFA group in the EP have called for  a fully democratic process in the EU parliament on all its aspects, including the transitional regulation for 2021 and 2022. During this 2 year  transition which will prolong the life of the current CAP, Grace will continue  to use her voice to build the future new CAP in full coherence with both the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity strategy as well as the EU's commitments on climate. 
Kind regards,

Liz O'Dea
Constituency Officer
Office of Grace O’Sullivan, MEP for Ireland South

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