Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-03-23-Speech-4-059"

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". Mr President, over the past six months, energy has very much become the topic of the moment. This was confirmed by the Heads of State at Hampton Court, and this is a window of opportunity that we simply must seize and that is what the Commission is doing. I have been very encouraged to see that the European Parliament is having the same positive approach and doing exactly the same. As Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, the use of non-food crops is an area of particular interest. I see here a very interesting new outlet for our agricultural sector and an interesting source of income, not only for farmers but for the whole rural economy. I therefore heartily welcome the report that we will be discussing today. Its timing is excellent and it makes a valuable contribution to the debate about the non-food use of agricultural crops. I would specifically like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Parish, and the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, for all the work they have been doing. The Commission has recently issued two communications with the aim of encouraging the use of biomass: the biomass action plan and the European strategy for biofuels. The Commission’s framework programmes for research have for many years supported pioneering work into renewable bio-resources, including plastics, agri-chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The seventh framework programme for research will place a particular emphasis on the development of sustainable non-food applications. As well as offering new opportunities to farmers, the development of non-food applications for agricultural raw materials is very much in line with the whole Lisbon Strategy. The approach is innovative and represents a high level of European added value. On the use of biomass for energy, Eurostat and the Joint Research Centre estimate that the potential for biomass production to meet our targets for 2010 is there. The CAP reform gives farmers incentives to respond to the growing demand. As well as our specific support for energy crops of EUR 45 per hectare, farmers can use set-aside land to grow non-food crops. Last year about 900 000 hectares of set-aside land were used for growing biomass for energy purposes. The sugar reform has now made sugar beet eligible for all bio-energy support schemes. On the processing side, however, major progress and investments are still needed. In our new rural development programming period we have the opportunity to support investments and other actions in favour of biomass for energy and other non-food purposes. Cohesion policy can also play an important role. As far as the environment is concerned, I agree that we must keep a careful eye on any unwanted impact from the development of the non-food sector. This must be carefully monitored. The use of biomass is on the increase in all regions of the world, in particular for biofuels. This can clearly have economic, social and environmental benefits, but we must also be sure to maintain a proper balance between the production of food and non-food. We do not wish to develop the non-food sector in such a way as to have a negative impact on our agrifood industry or on food prices for consumers, either in the European Union or in the developing countries. This is again something that we must monitor carefully. I am looking forward to a discussion here in the European Parliament on the ways of using renewable energies in a more active way."@en1

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