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Biofuels

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what financial assistance has been provided to encourage British farmers to produce environmentally sustainable biofuels for road transport. [151564]

Ms Quin: The green fuels challenge invited proposals for the development of alternative environmentally friendly fuels for road transport, and any announcements about the outcome will be made in the Budget.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the potential of crops grown for the production of biodiesel and bioethanol as alternative crops for British agriculture. [152067]

Ms Quin: The alternative crops which appear to have potential for the production of road transport fuels are non-food rapeseed for biodiesel and short rotation coppice and miscanthus for bioethanol.

BSE

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment his Department has made of the implications for health of the decision to move to a policy of rendering carcases killed under the OTMS prior to incineration; and if he will make a statement. [151810]

Ms Quin: Since the outset of the OTMS in 1996, disposal of cattle has been by two means, either by direct incineration of the carcase, or by rendering of the carcase followed by the storage and subsequent incineration of the rendered material. There was then, and remains, insufficient capacity directly to incinerate all of the cattle

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slaughtered. The majority are, therefore, rendered. All OTMS rendering plants operate under strict controls enforced by the Environment Agency and the relevant local authority to protect both public and environmental health. To assess the safety of OTMS operations, the Environment Agency commissioned a number of studies from independent expert consultations of the risk from BSE to human health via different environmental pathways, based on the precautionary principle. These were produced in consultation with the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) and published in 1997. They showed that the risks are negligible compared to other risks in daily life and endorsed SEAC's advice to the Government in 1996 that the current and proposed methods of dealing with animal waste material from the slaughter of cattle are safe.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much meat and bonemeal has been created as a result of rendering carcases culled under the OTMS. [151781]

Ms Quin: The total quantity of meat and bonemeal created from rendering carcases under OTMS is 588,803 tonnes.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much meat and bonemeal has been disposed of via (a) direct incineration and (b) rendering followed by incineration in each year since the establishment of the OTMS. [151782]

Ms Quin: The total quality of meat and bonemeal incinerated so far is 157,613 tonnes, with a further 431,190 tonnes in store.

For further information, the following table compares the weight of carcase material directly incinerated with that rendered.

Tonnes

YearDirect incinerationRendering
19960206,627
1997340133,429
199818,340376,763
199943,897384,398
200043,179387,049

Stock Disposal

Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he is having with the agriculture industry on methods of disposing of dead stock. [151830]

Ms Quin [holding answer 1 March 2001]: My right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Hayman met the National Sheep Association in December 2000 to discuss the disposal of dead stock. Officials also have frequent discussions on this subject with representatives of the agriculture industry.

EU Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council

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held in Brussels on 26 and 27 February; if he will set out the Government's voting record at the Council; and if he will make a statement. [151992]

Mr. Nick Brown: The Minister of State and I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 26 February. Ross Finnie (Minister for Rural Development, Scottish Executive), Brid Rodgers MLA (Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Executive), and Carwyn Jones (Minister for Rural Affairs, National Assembly for Wales), also attended.

The Council reviewed the main decisions on BSE which it had taken at recent meetings. Member states underlined the importance of effective implementation of those measures, as well as the need to avoid national measures. On scrapie, the Council endorsed the Commission's proposals on testing and surveillance and undertook to keep the science under review.

The Council also considered the Commission's proposed seven-point plan responding to the crisis in the European beef market. A wide range of reactions emerged. The UK supported the need for urgent measures to restore consumer confidence and remove unwanted beef from older animals from the market, while querying the appropriateness of some of the measures designed to rebalance the beef market in the medium term. We expressed particular concern about the proposals to require suckler cow premium claims to include a minimum of 20 per cent. heifers, the introduction of individual quotas for beef special premium and restoration of the 90 head limit on beef special premium claims.

I gave colleagues in the Council details of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom as well as the measures we are taking to contain the disease and, in collaboration with the Commission, to prevent its spread to other member states. Commissioner Byrne and other Ministers expressed great sympathy for UK farmers and their appreciation of the comprehensive measures we are taking.

Jointly with the Italian delegation, we called for a review of the EU's food labelling policy so that food labels would better satisfy consumers demands for more information, including, for example, about how food is produced and what it contains. This initiative was given strong support by Germany and Austria.

Farmers (Retirement)

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what financial packages are available to help farmers with retirement; and if he will make a statement. [152290]

Mr. Morley: There are no financial packages available from MAFF to help farmers with retirement.

Nitrogen

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much nitrogen is (a) produced and (b) used annually on farms in the UK. [152297]

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Mr. Morley: Current research indicates that:



Rural Development Regulation Fund

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what revenue funding is available from the rural development regulation fund; and if he will make a statement. [152303]

Mr. Morley: The England rural development programme (ERDP) sets out the funds available for people in farming, forestry and rural businesses under the rural development regulation. Details of planned expenditure under the ERDP were provided in the response to the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on 29 November 2000, Official Report, columns 662-64W.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of the rural development regulation fund is spent on monitoring farmers; and if he will make a statement. [152302]

Mr. Morley: None.

Farm Diversification

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with local planning authorities regarding farm diversification applications; what guidance he gives to them; and if he will make a statement. [152304]

Mr. Morley: MAFF is consulted on all planning applications which would involve the loss of 20 hectares or more of high quality farmland. MAFF also comments on local development plans to ensure that they encourage farm diversification. The rural White Paper gave an undertaking that planning guidance would be updated to take account of the needs of the living, working countryside.

Veterinarians (Fish)

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many registered veterinarians employed within his Department and its agencies (a) are engaged in aquaculture and (b) hold post-graduate qualifications in fish health; and where they are based. [151922]

Mr. Morley: CEFAS employs three registered veterinarians working in aquaculture, all based at the Weymouth laboratory, one of whom holds a post-graduate qualification in fish health.


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