Farming: ‘Irrational’ bid to limit biofuel output

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Proposals by the EU Commission to limit the production of biofuels from food crops have been dismissed as irrational by the NFU for England and Wales.

The proposals fail to take into account that crops grown for biofuels also produce co-products for animal feed which are increasingly important in the light of soaring feed costs, according to the union’s combineable crops adviser, James Mills.

The commission announced this week that the amount of food-crop based biofuels to be counted towards the target of 10 per cent renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020 is to be limited to the current consumption level of 5 per cent. Mills suggested this could result in limits being placed on the single farm payment for farmers who exceeded the limit.

He claimed there need be no conflict between biofuels and food production as the same crops could deliver both high protein feed and low-carbon fuels.

“In simplistic biofuels debates, these synergies are often overlooked,” he said. “Biofuel production is not a simple question of food versus fuel. It is about making the most out of available resources to produce food and renewable energy alongside other products.”

The manufacture of biodiesel from oilseeds and ethanol from wheat provided valuable co-products as feed for the livestock sector, as well as rotational benefits for increasing food production and protecting the quality of soils. “EU and UK reliance on imported protein has driven up the price of animal feed for livestock production,” said Mills. “A sustainable biofuels industry will play an important role in narrowing this deficit to the benefit of both livestock and arable producers.”

Scottish beef cattle are on average superior to English

Scottish prime cattle finishers should not be too worried that prices down south have risen more in the past month than they have here, according to Stuart Ashworth, head of economics services with Quality Meat Scotland

His analysis of the market showed that caution was needed when considering average price movements.

He concluded that, over the past month, the quality of cattle marketed in England and Wales had improved.

He added that the average grade of beef cattle in Scotland was better than in England and Wales and the mix of quality of cattle reaching Scottish abattoirs had remained more consistent than in England and Wales.