Climate action within arable sector needs 'right policy environment'

Minette Batters says arable farmers are uniquely placed to capture carbon through soil management
Minette Batters says arable farmers are uniquely placed to capture carbon through soil management

The British arable sector offers many solutions to the climate challenge but it needs the right policy environment if it is to fulfil its potential, the NFU says.

Speaking at the Cereals 2021 event in Lincoln, the union raised the role growers had in tackling climate change and the opportunities it could offer to arable businesses.

As the UK looks to the road to net zero, growers had a rare ability to fuel the bioeconomy, it said, and to have a positive impact on decarbonisation within both farming and other sectors.

NFU president Minette Batters said at the event: “The crops grown in the UK form the very basis of our diets, producing the raw ingredients for the nation’s pantry staples, but their significance does not end there.

"I truly believe that British farming businesses can be global leaders in climate-resilient food production and the arable sector is at the core of this."

She said arable farmers were also uniquely placed to capture carbon through soil management, such as through green cover crops or reduced tillage systems.

And it was also important that government schemes such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) properly incentivise, support and reward this type of work.

Mrs Batters expressed excitement at the fact the UK will start to see E10 at petrol stations in a few months’ time and that there will be further opportunities for farmers to direct more land and by-products into biomass production, renewable energy and carbon capture.

It was important, she said, that the contribution farmers can make towards the UK net zero target by avoiding fossil fuel emissions and driving crucial greenhouse gas removal was recognised and encouraged in the government’s upcoming biomass strategy.

“But while our national and industry net zero ambitions will provide a variety of economic opportunities for growers, we can’t underestimate the challenges that will come with it," the NFU president said.

“One challenge we face is around building climate resilience, both on a national scale and on an individual farm business basis to give our businesses the best chance of surviving and thriving in the future.

“But perhaps the biggest challenge of all will be how we actually value carbon and the services farming as an industry can provide," she added.

"This is a hugely complex area and one which needs global collaboration and uptake, which is why our trade policy must also align itself to our net zero ambitions, otherwise we risk undermining the good work here and exporting our carbon footprint abroad.”