Government still not given to hard, climate change, control advice to farmers

UK - At the end of the year in which climate change emerged as a frontline agricultural issue the National Beef Association has described the UK government’s thoughts on how farmers can adapt to ongoing global developments as “contradictory and confused”.
calendar icon 27 December 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

It says it has listened hard for a clear message on how UK agriculture can continue with its vital food production, and at the same time cut back activity in its carbon black spots, but is still waiting for a list of practical targets that working farmers can react to.

“It is also worrying that the prevailing government view appears to be that UK agriculture’s principal role is to conduct its business in ways that ignore increasingly tight global food supplies but concentrate on the preservation of recreational landscapes, like National Parks, instead,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“What we are looking for, and what the industry desperately needs, is a positive direction statement on how food can be produced efficiently within UK borders at the same time as pressure on the factors that drive climate change is increased.”

“However all that has emerged so far is a perplexing bundle of mixed messages that not only appear to ignore the very real importance of continued primary food production in the UK, or the greater role played by non-agricultural activities in climate change, but also give contradictory, and confusing, advice to farmers who urgently want to adapt their businesses to changing climatic circumstances.”

According to the NBA it may even be possible that government is itself baffled at the complexity of the dynamics that are lifting temperatures and is unable, at this stage, to offer any practical advice to the industry.

“It has told the farming and food industry representatives there are few clear answers and that in global terms the production of bio-fuels can do more damage to climate than the continued use of fossil fuel because among other things it is encouraging the destruction of more tropical rain forest and fertiliser use to grow energy crops contributes to global warming,” said Ms Haywood.

“Even at UK level government is having extreme difficulty in putting forward consistent views. For example it has found there are no simple ways in which NVZs (Nitrate Vulnerable Zones) can be installed without there being unwanted, long term, climatic results but it is still pressing for speedy NVZ adoption.”

“And on the relatively mundane matter of methane emissions from cattle policy makers are ignoring the European Commission’s contribution following the progressive removal of rumen modifiers, which significantly reduced methane output, from the animal pharmacy market.”

“Farmers need to quickly know the exact carbon positives and negatives of their principal activities so they can make commercial moves that bring their businesses in line with reaction to climate change but do not obstruct their mainline ability to maintain, or even raise, increasingly important food production – but so far government has been unable to deliver,” Ms Haywood added.

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