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Shropshire farmers doing their bit to tackle climate change

Farming | Published:

Climate change, quite rightly, is never far from the headlines.

Oliver Cartwright, West Midlands National Farmers’ Union

There is an abundance of peer-reviewed research and professional opinion and no denying we’re already seeing the impacts of extreme weather.

What we can and should do about it, is where many of us have differing opinions.

Shropshire farmers are food producers first, but agriculture has a huge opportunity to be part of the climate change solution – be that producing more food more sustainably, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and caring for the landscape to enhance biodiversity.

Many would argue that there’s nothing more sustainable than stock reared on Shropshire grassland. The NFU has to positively engage on this critical issue to ensure knee-jerk policy decisions aren’t made, hampering our ability to serve society by producing more food, more sustainably.

The union has been clear that our aspiration to become net zero – reducing our greenhouse gas footprint and offsetting emissions by 2040 – does not mean downsizing production. This would only export our production to countries which may not have the same environmental protection standards or the climate ambitions we have here.

The union’s plan for achieving net zero is focused on making the most of our natural resources and we are also looking for ways to improve soil health, for example.

Farming’s impact also needs to be put into context.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, transport is the largest greenhouse gas contributor in terms of emissions, accounting for 26 per cent.

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Energy supply follows at 24 per cent, then business at 17 per cent, residential at 14 per cent and then agriculture at 10 per cent; the rest is made up from other sources.

Emissions from UK livestock have decreased 17 per cent since 1990 and according to the United Nations beef production in Western Europe is also 2.5 times more carbon efficient than the global average.

Shropshire farmers are also determined to continue to reduce methane emissions through a variety of methods, including dietary changes and breeding techniques.

There needs to be perspective and sense when looking ahead, away from the misconception being peddled by some industry detractors.

Farming of the future needs to embrace new technology and invest in modern infrastructure, not shy away from it. That may well mean more intensive production in sectors where emissions can be better managed. Net zero is just one of the ways we must engage in this debate, to ensure farming is recognised as part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Oliver Cartwright, West Midlands National Farmers’ Union

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