The NFU has warned failings in the Government’s Agriculture Bill will leave farmers uniquely exposed to the effects of climate change.
The union’s deputy president, Guy Smith, sounded the alarm after Defra Secretary Michael Gove delivered a landmark speech on how his department planned to tackle the problem.
Speaking at the Science Museum in London on November 26, Mr Gove admitted more extreme weather would ‘harm crop yields and make market prices more volatile’.
He also acknowledged climate change could contribute to food insecurity, as rising sea levels or low rainfall make production in some parts of the world impossible, and said this would give UK farmers an ‘opportunity to play an even more important role in global food production’.
But Mr Smith, while welcoming the suggestion that British farmers could improve food production, warned the industry would need to be supported by good Government policy if this dream were to be realised.
He said: “Climate change, in many ways, encapsulates our concerns with the failings of the Agriculture Bill.
“If farmers are going to be able to adjust to the challenge of climate change, with wetter winters and drier summers, then they are going to need to invest in their farm businesses to help weather-proof them.
“Two perfect examples are reservoirs to capture rainfall to use for irrigation during drought and better buildings in the hills to withstand severe weather and storms.
“But we feel although the Agriculture Bill talks about productivity, all the narrative is about environmental delivery.”
Mr Smith also suggested measures in the Agriculture Bill do not go far enough to help farmers manage the increased volatility which will come as a result of climate change, and said it would be ‘reckless and irresponsible’ to leave the UK reliant on food imports for environmental reasons.
“If our response to climate change as a country is to downsize agriculture and re-wild or clear the hills of methane-creating stock, then you just pressurise other parts of the world for your food needs,” he added.
“Responsible Government is about making sure we are managing to produce food with our own resources.”