NFU Cymru’s president on net-zero farming

16 September, 2021
By John Davies

The global challenge of tackling climate change is arguably the greatest environmental issue facing the world. In recent years, the extremes of weather serve to remind us that, as farmers, we are very much on the frontline of climate change impacts.  

Farming is also part of the climate change solution, as the only sector that is both a source of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and an important carbon sink. By capturing Carbon Dioxide from the air and turning it into a variety of foods, fibres and fuels required for much of human life. 

The NFU’s ambition to strive for a ‘net zero’ contribution to climate change across the whole of agricultural production by 2040 is evidence of farmers’ commitment to greater action on climate change. 

But net-zero agriculture won’t just happen; it will require a range of different policies and practices across three key areas: Improving farming’s efficiency/productivity to reduce our GHG emissions. Farmland carbon storage, and the practical opportunities to increase the carbon stored in soils, hedges, trees and small farm woodlands. Boosting renewable energy production to avoid GHG emissions from fossil fuels. 

Net-zero agriculture is a national aspiration. Every farm is different, and there is no expectation that every farm will achieve net zero. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each farm will need to implement the right measures for their farming system and location. On my own farm, I am already focused on improving my flock’s health status and performance, managing grassland to conserve and increase carbon storage and increasing woodland cover on my farm, establishing and restoring hedgerows.  

These are issues that will need to be addressed beyond my farm-gate. Future policy must optimise all the positive benefits that farming provides, not least farmers’ crucial ability to sequester carbon. Solutions are not about land-use change that sees farmers replaced by trees or abandoned land with all the economic, environmental, social, and cultural consequences. Widespread land-use change through afforestation or rewilding in Wales simply sees the impact of food production exported to other parts of the world where environmental standards are lower.  

Farmers can and will adapt – embracing the new opportunities that a changing climate brings to grow new crops in Wales. As a farmer, I recognise the role I have to play in reducing my climate impacts and optimising carbon sequestration on my farm, alongside my primary role as a food producer. Above all else, there can be no doubt that ‘climate friendly’ food production in Wales will be increasingly important in the future.

Website: https://www.nfu-cymru.org.uk/

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