EU rules to prevent antibiotics from being used as growth promoters
Plans to limit the use of antibiotics on farms in order to keep food free from resistant bacteria were adopted by European Parliament on Thursday.

Veterinary medicines must not under any circumstances serve to improve the performance or compensate for poor animal husbandry, says the new law voted on by Parliament this Thursday. The law, when introduced, would limit the use of antimicrobials unless they are prescribed by a vet.

The law also states that imported foods will have to meet these new EU standards and that antibiotics cannot be used to enhance the growth of animals.

The agreement still has to be formally adopted by Council before publication on the Official Journal

To help tackle antimicrobial resistance, the law would empower the European Commission to select antimicrobials to be reserved only for treating humans.

The agreement with EU ministers was adopted with 583 votes to 16 and 20 abstentions. The agreement still has to be formally adopted by Council before publication on the Official Journal.

“The devil is however in the detail,” commented Roxane Feller, secretary general of AnimalhealthEurope.

“There are a considerable number of implementing measures – 29 – in total meaning that there is still a lot of work to be done to agree the finer details of how we will implement the changes."

Medicated feed

In a separate vote, MEPs also approved new rules on more responsible ways to produce, sell and use medicated feed to tackle the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

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Map: animal antibiotic use in Europe

Farming can’t ignore drug resistance – Huey

MEP voting record over the last parliament
With the European elections almost upon us, Odile Evans looks at the voting record of sitting MEPs who are seeking re-election.

Legislation on trade deals, glyphosate, anti-microbial resistance, unfair trading practices and crisis management tools for farmers have all been voted on by Irish MEPs since the European Parliament elections in 2014.

In the table, the Irish Farmers Journal gives a breakdown on how MEPs who are seeking re-election voted over the term of the last parliament.

All of the Sinn Féin and Independent MEPs either abstained, voted against or were absent for the votes on the Singapore, Canada, Japan and American trade deals. The four Fine Gael MEPs voted in favour of them.

The Sinn Féin MEPs abstained, voted against or were absent for other votes relevant to farming, including that on unfair trading practices (UTP), live export regulations, glyphosate and CAP tools to deal with crises in agricultural markets. Speaking on behalf of the Sinn Féin MEPs, Matt Carthy said he did not support the UTP legislation because he “cannot look farmers in the eye and tell them their situation will improve as a result” of its introduction.

He said the live export rules were too stringent for Irish exporters and that if current EU rules were strictly adhered to then it would have the highest animal welfare standards in the world. As first vice-president of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness was chairing the session on this day and therefore did not vote.

McGuinness said she voted against an objection to the extension of the licence for glyphosate and did not support its phasing out. Carthy said Sinn Féin abstained from that vote as the active substance should be banned from use in public parks and pre-harvest, but that its use in Irish agriculture is important and should have a strict licensing system until its safety is proven.

Trade deal impact

1 Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Talks between the EU and US were suspended by President Trump when he came into office but were already deadlocked over the issue of access for hormone-treated beef to the EU and mutual recognition of standards.

2 EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

One of the most comprehensive trade deals ever entered into by the EU. It was signed off in 2016 but is being implemented provisionally as not signed off by individual member states yet. It has a generous 45,000t beef quota for Canada which is widely opposed by EU farmers and access to Canada dairy markets remains difficult for EU exporters.

3 Japan

This deal came into effect in 2019 and is one of the most favourable ever negotiated for EU farmers. It reduces beef and dairy tariffs from 38.5% down to 9% over 15 years and virtually clears tariffs on pig meat. Japan is also one of the biggest importing countries in the world for agricultural produce.

4 Singapore

This is a huge trading hub for Asia similar to what Rotterdam is for Europe. It is not a huge volume importer but has no agriculture as such of its own and imports what it needs for its urban population. It is a high-value market as well as being a trading hub for other Asian markets.

CAP analysis irrelevant until regulation is decided - Creed
Mairead McGuinness has called on Minister Creed to release preliminary results of the Department's analysis of how the new CAP will impact payments to Irish farmers.

Any analysis on the impact of new Common Agricultural Policy regulations is only a draft until final decisions are made in the EU, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said. But MEP Mairead McGuinness says that any impact assessment carried out by the Department should be made available to help inform voting decisions.

“Ahead of the [agriculture] committee's vote, I wrote to Minister Creed urging him to carry out an impact assessment on how implementation of convergence of payments would impact on a range of family farms. It’s critically important that we know the impact of such a move,” she said.

But Minister Creed has said that all direct payment measures are inextricably linked to each other.

“This means that each time one of the elements is changed, each of the other elements also must change. As a result, any analysis, including analysis on convergence, only remains current until one of the elements changes.This state of flux is likely to continue until the regulations are fully developed, at which time detailed analyses will be completed to fully address the impact on farmers in Ireland of CAP 2020,” he said.

The draft legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 were launched by European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan on 1 June 2018. The proposals involve significant changes to the the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. It also gives more powers to each of the member states to allocate payments where needed.

Work is currently under way in the Department of Agriculture to analyse the impact of changes to direct payments in the draft regulations.

“Preliminary modelling exercises have been carried out and the results of these analyses are currently being reviewed and revised to take account of the most recently available data,” Creed said.

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Creed called on to release CAP payment analysis

Listen: EU to open young farmers' loans on Monday
Young European farmers are set to access 15-year loans supported by European institutions from next week.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan will announce the details of a large loan fund to help young farmers access finance across the EU on Monday, he told the Irish Farmers Journal on Saturday.

"I can confirm that there will be a substantial loan package available to young farmers around the European Union for investment on their farms, which will be announced on Monday," Commissioner Hogan said after the launch of the Teagasc/Microsoft Airband broadband pilot scheme in Ballyhaise college, Co Cavan.

"We’ll have a substantial fund available, specifically for young farmers, that will be over a longer period of time – 15-year loans, at much lower interest rates than is available in the market," he added.

As previously revealed by the Irish Farmers Journal, the European Commission has been working with the European Investment Bank to develop subsidised loans dedicated to young farmers.

Young farmers' organisations around Europe including Macra na Feirme have repeatedly raised access to finance as a major issue for their members.

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Listen: new Airband initiative to address rural broadband issues

Young farmer loan scheme on the cards