NFU president Minette Batters has set out a three-pronged approach to achieving the union’s goal to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 2040.
Ms Batters outlined the plan in her opening address to the NFU’s annual conference.
She told the audience the first step to reaching the target would be about investing in productive efficiency, producing more food from fewer inputs.
“I am not in the business of scaling back British agriculture to achieve net zero,” she said.
“The Government will not halt climate change by exporting our production. This about improving productivity, farming smarter and investing in on-farm infrastructure.”
Incentivising carbon capture from the atmosphere is the second step in the NFU plan.
Ms Batters said: “The combination of changes to our soil management, allowing some hedges to grow larger and thicker and planting new farm woods can all contribute significantly.
“Simply doubling the volume of just 10 per cent of British hedges could capture almost 5 per cent of farming’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
The third part of the three-pronged approach is to grow biofuels which can be used to power carbon capture and storage systems, providing a renewable ‘engine’ to fuel the technology.
Ms Batters plan to reach net zero emissions has not been welcomed by all parts of the industry, with NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick telling the NFUS conference two weeks ago he ‘disagreed’ with the NFU target, though was prepared to accept it is ‘aspirational and not absolute’.
Mr McCornick joined former QMS chairman Jim McLaren in calling for a better method of calculating emissions across the whole of the UK.
“They are not good at measuring the good which comes from ruminant farming in terms of food produced and carbon capture from growing grass,” said Mr McCornick.
“One flight from Heathrow to New York in emissions terms is equivalent to a herd of 500 cows for a year.”
Mr McLaren added: “We are sleepwalking into net zero with no effective measurement tool.
“At the moment, we count the legs and divide by four. We get zero credit for the work we do [in sequestering carbon] already.”