An agricultural think tank has warned commercial farming is being ‘written out’ of emerging post-Brexit policy, despite the fact that fewer than 10 per cent of farm businesses produce over half the UK’s agricultural output.
The Commercial Farmers Group (CFG) said large-scale farm businesses have the potential to solve sustainability challenges, generate employment and boost the wider economy, but are the ‘most at risk’ from the proposed changes put forward by UK Ministers in the Agriculture Bill.
According to a new report published by the CFG, Commercial Farming: Delivering the UK’s new Agriculture Policies, commercial businesses with access to land, capital and planning expertise have so far been denied a ‘seat at the table’, even though they are well-placed to help mitigate climate change through renewable energy generation and more efficient food production.
The report reads: “A large modern farm might, in absolute terms, use more resources and emit more greenhouse gases than a small traditional farm, but any analysis should compare figures in terms of ‘per unit of output’.
“While there are currently no universally accepted on-farm tools to help a farmer determine actual levels, a growing number of major peer-reviewed studies by global authorities on agriculture, including the UN’s FAO, have now shown conclusively that when viewed purely at ‘unit of output’ level (ignoring social imperatives), more intensive systems of production are almost invariably more efficient, and therefore carry a lower cost in terms of resource use and greenhouse gas emissions than more traditional methods of production.”
The report goes on to claim that larger-scale farms are more able than their smaller counterparts to invest in facilities or systems to reduce the risk of pollution, and can spare more land for environmental management in order to boost biodiversity.
It also points to a recent Scottish study which found commercial farm businesses could help to prevent rural depopulation by creating associated jobs in service and manufacturing.
CFG member James Black, who runs a family farming business producing pigs and crops in Suffolk, said: “These businesses are ideally-placed to stimulate local economies, support wider industries and address pressing problems such as use of finite resources, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and biodiversity decline.
“However, they can only do this if allowed the chance.”