A net zero future for UK farming is our goal - Alison Rose & Tanya Steele

Yesterday saw the closing of the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, the pinnacle of the Scottish Agricultural calendar and one of the largest celebrations of farming, food and rural life in the UK. As always, it was a vibrant and inspiring display of the best the sector has to offer. But this year’s show followed a challenging year for an industry facing cost pressures posed by inflation, the impacts of the war in Ukraine on feed prices and the long-term challenge posed by climate change.

These difficult times are forcing us all to confront the fragility of our global food system. Disruption has become only too real through empty shelves and rising prices, while for food producers, life is increasingly uncertain. Our agricultural sector is struggling to compete with cheaper food imports, which are often produced to a lower standard, in the face of rising costs and global price shocks.

Farmland covers 70% of land in the UK and produces nearly 11% of UK greenhouse gases. It is also a visible victim of climate change, with increasingly unpredictable weather affecting crop yields and animal welfare. It is abundantly clear that we will not be able to tackle the climate crisis without reducing emissions from the food and farming sector.

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A different future is possible, one that can be both economically and environmentally prosperous. Many farmers are becoming more sustainable and productive, while moving away from intensive farming methods. Some farms have radically reduced their climate emissions, recognising that nature itself is our biggest ally in tackling climate change, absorbing 50% of our emissions.

Blackface sheep are judged in the ring at the Royal Highland CentreBlackface sheep are judged in the ring at the Royal Highland Centre
Blackface sheep are judged in the ring at the Royal Highland Centre

But farmers, many of whom are small businesses, cannot do this alone. A new report by NatWest has found that the whole sector needs to take a collective approach to solving these issues. 82% of farmers want to embrace the long-term challenge and transition their growth, but they need support to do this. That’s why NatWest has committed to lending almost £7billion to UK Agriculture.

Whilst funding is one piece of the puzzle, collaboration is equally critical, and NatWest and WWF – the world’s leading conservation organisation - are proud to announce our new partnership. Together, we will work with farmers, supermarkets and the Scottish, Welsh and UK governments to drive change for our food and farming system through policy, investment and support. Our joint aim is to mobilise public and private investment into regenerative agriculture and ensure that farmers are supported to grow more of our food in the UK in nature-friendly ways.

Our shared vision for farming is for a sector meeting the triple challenge of feeding the country, reducing emissions and restoring nature. We believe it is possible to achieve a net-zero future, where the connections between the food people eat and how it has been produced are re-established, and where growers and producers get a fairer share of the market, supported with sustainable long-term financing.

This is a make-or-break moment for agriculture. Nature is in crisis and we urgently need to protect and restore it. Farmers are eager to embrace a new world of lower emissions and nature restoration, not least because it is in the long-term interests of their sector. They understand that productivity and sustainability can go hand in hand and that more than ever, customers and consumers expect it.



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