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Farming matters: Minette Batters - 'Let's lead the net zero charge from the front'

This year we have seen our farms go from being deluged by rain to bone dry in a matter of months.

NFU President Minette Batters - Copyright Fototek Geoff and Tordis Pagotto
NFU President Minette Batters - Copyright Fototek Geoff and Tordis Pagotto

I used to be shocked by how quickly the weather could vary from one extreme to the other, but no longer.

 

What used to be a once in a decade occurrence has now become a yearly event.

 

I often think of farmers like Andrew and Henry Ward in Lincolnshire, who were dealing with floodwater metres deep across their land.

 

These are the extremes many farmers are now dealing with on a regular basis.

 

Our increasingly volatile weather was just one of the reasons why I announced the NFU’s ambition for British agriculture to become net zero by 2040 nearly two years ago.

 

The consistent narrative of how farming is the problem was another.

 

We have seen many of our critics adopt climate change as the reason why we need to stop livestock and dairy farming.

 

Ambition

 

But they do not understand that each and every one of us can hold our own in this debate.

 

We need to be on the front foot with this. We have to showcase our ambition and demonstrate action.

 

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are much lower than either the transport and energy sectors, which together contribute to just over half of the UK’s emissions.

 

The difference is that there are changes they can make which will significantly reduce their emissions in a matter of years.

 

The phase out of petrol and diesel vehicles could see that sector sharply cut their emissions.


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If agriculture is not actively doing its bit to contribute to a net zero economy, then we will likely be next in the firing line.

 

British agriculture will need supportive government policies that truly back our shift to net zero.

 

For example, the Envrionmental Land Management scheme has to be accessible for every farm and planning policy needs to reflect the variety of technologies that farmers are now using.

 

The good news is you are probably already doing something on your farm that will help reduce emissions, whether it is improving livestock health, using precision technology, building soil fertility or installing renewable energy.

Volatile weather is part of the reason for the NFU's drive for British farming to become net zero by 2040.
Volatile weather is part of the reason for the NFU's drive for British farming to become net zero by 2040.

The NFU recently produced a case study booklet outlining exactly how farmers are working towards net zero, which just illustrates how many ways there are for businesses to contribute to this ambition.

 

There is a lot going on at the moment, from UK and EU trade negotiations to the threat of imports produced to standards that would be illegal for us to use.

 

We are also still recovering from the impacts of Covid-19 and lockdown. Nothing at the moment is simple. But we cannot ignore climate change.

 

Support

 

We have seen a huge wave in public support for British farming over the past few months, as well as some positive ideas from the Climate Assembly, and if we want this to continue we need to be showing the country that we are taking action on this now.

 

Let us lead the net zero charge from the front, shout loud and proud about the work we are already doing on our farms, what more we could do, and ensure that MPs and the public see us as part of the solution, not the problem.

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