MP raises concerns on subsidies

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On Monday (January 7) South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss met DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson to raise her concerns about biomass subsidies and the effect they have on local farmers.

The meeting held in the Secretary of State’s rooms in the House of Commons lasted just over thirty minutes.

The Secretary of State told Elizabeth that while the concept of anaerobic digestion is valuable especially with such a high volume of food waste in this country, that we should use this for power rather than sending to landfill. However, he further added that it is important that we do not risk upsetting the delicate balance of interests that underpins our living working countryside.

Elizabeth Truss MP said after the meeting: “I am extremely pleased to have been able to discuss some of my concerns about the use of agricultural land for the provision of fuel with the Secretary of State and that he has committed to consider the impacts of biomass plants on the rural economy and environment as part of a wider study being undertaken by DEFRA.

“There are a number of biomass applications across South West Norfolk and I am keen to ensure that prime agricultural land is not lost to fuel production. Straw forms the foundation of a mixed farming system that grows cereals and straw for livestock feed and bedding. South West Norfolk is an area famed for its high welfare farming systems, quality pork processing and feed mills. I am keen to ensure that biomass and farming do not end up competing for the same product, therefore driving up prices and creating a reduction in land used for food production. The pig industry alone is worth an estimated £580 million to East Anglia. Supporting over 1000 jobs in the region it is vital that we ensure its long term sustainability and that our agricultural land is used first and foremost to grow crops for food.”

Elizabeth has been pressing ministers about her concerns on the development of biomass plants and the impact this will have on the UK’s food security.

In November 2012, Elizabeth was pleased by the intervention of the Climate Change Minster John Hayes in relation to ongoing concerns that Elizabeth has in relation to biomass plants and food security. In response to a joint letter from Elizabet, Jim Paice MP and Dan Poulter MP, the Minister confirmed that the production of biomass for bio energy must not undermine food security and that research is currently underway into this.

In July 2012 After a meeting with DECC Minister Charles Hendry, the Minister promised Elizabeth that a joint investigation with DEFRA into the impact of bio mass on wider food production would be undertaken.

In March 2012 Elizabeth raised concerns in the House of Commons about the number of Biomass plant applications being submitted in South West Norfolk. Elizabeth is particularly concerned about the loss of prime agricultural land to sustain these plants. She first raised her concerns with DECC Minister Charles Hendry. In response to her then, the Minister admitted that the increase in demand for these feedstocks for electricity generation “does risk an expansion of agricultural land, which could lead to deforestation and related environmental and social impacts”. In response, the Rt Hon Edward Davey MP (Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change) said “the Government will not allow the growth of bio-energy to compromise food security. There are many other food stocks for bio-energy, including waste. Crops for energy can be grown in ways that don’t compete with food, for example using marginal land. We want our farmers to share the economic opportunities offered by bio energy as well as realising the benefits of clean secure energy for the country.”

In May 2011 Elizabeth raises her concerns with DECC Minister Charles Hendry about the use of land to grow fuel to use in bio mass plants