Many of the note-0proposals to help future farm policy tackle climate change focus on improving productivity efficiencies, but such an approach is unlikely alone to meet the emissions reduction targets set for the farming industry.
Speaking at an on-line meeting on climate change organised by the East Central region of NFU Scotland, co-chair of the Farming for 1.5° group and former NFUS president, Nigel Miller, said that many measures were being looked at to deliver a win/win result for the industry – with both the environment and the farm’s economics benefiting.
But he said that this approach was only likely to result in a reduction of around 20% in the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“And even if it can be pushed up to 25% that figure still falls a long way short of the 50-60 per cent cut which is being sought.”
Warning that a period of pain for the industry was likely further down the line, Miller said that meeting the full targets would not be a cost neutral process for the industry.
“And here we’ll be looking at the delivery of public goods – and there will need to be additional investment in the industry which will have to come from either carbon offsetting contracts or Government support in order to keep farms viable,” said Miller.
He said that measures such as reducing the emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas some 300 times more potent than CO2 – from soils after the use of fertilisers was likely to have significant costs for the industry.
Not only would tackling such issues be likely to place constraints on how crops could be grown but, with a requirement to utilise more legumes rotations would also have to be changed, said Miller
He added that the use of slow release fertilisers and measures to increase soil organic matters would also have cost implications for businesses.
But he agreed with fellow panellist, Claire Simonetta who was closely involved in drawing up the Scottish Suckler beef climate change group report – one a of a series of sector-based industry groups set up to outline practical and deliverable proposals for future policy – that any schemes which were introduced should be inclusive to all.
And it was stressed that this meant that those who were already adopting practices which delivered benefits should not miss out - while those who were trailing should also be incentivised to play their part.
But asked if reducing cattle numbers – which accounted for a considerable proportion of the industries emissions - would be a solution for the industry, Simonetta said that this would be unacceptable.
“Reducing cow numbers is not the answer,” she said, “that would simple draw in imports, meaning we would have exported our emissions at the cost of the industry.”
And the message was backed up by Quality Meat Scotland chair, Kate Rowell who stated that the UK was one of the best countries in which to produce beef – with a carbon footprint which was 35 per cent below the global average.