Shropshire Star

Farming Talk: A challenge the sector can't tackle on its own

The last few years have been enormously challenging for our farmers, in Shropshire and beyond.

Adrian Burden, relationship director – agriculture, at Lloyds Bank

They have weathered an unprecedented series of storms – from the literal, most recently Storm Ciaran in November, to the metaphorical – including Covid, labour shortages and then soaring crop and fertiliser prices following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. As a result we are all seeing the impact as food prices rise at the checkouts.

But although times are hard, the farming community here has a critical role to play in the country’s wider shift towards a more sustainable, nature-positive future with lower emissions.

It’s a big challenge and not one the sector can tackle on its own – but there is help at hand.

For example, Lloyds Bank is working hard to support agriculture businesses as they make this transition. We’re funding a new, sustainable farming consultancy which is available for the biggest agricultural businesses who bank with us. Working in partnership with Soil Association Exchange, it has been designed to help farmers by giving them a range of information and consistent data about their sustainability – things like measuring emissions, soil health, biodiversity and more.

From there, agricultural advisers will work with individual farmers to create an improvement plan based on the data, which belongs to them, but can be shared with their supply chain.

This support is now being extended further. We’ve worked with the Exchange to launch a new self-serve platform, accessible to any agricultural business, to give the whole sector a greater opportunity to reduce their emissions.

The platform – which is available online or through an app – allows farmers to enter environmental data like soil samples and bird counts, as well as results from their carbon calculator, to generate a sustainability report. This offers businesses a better understanding of their carbon output and highlights areas where emissions can be reduced, while also explaining how they might access funding to reward any transition.

Our own lending will be an important part of the support available. Alongside our specialist agricultural mortgage company AMC, we have lent millions to agricultural firms in Shropshire and the wider region in 2023, so we know farmers here are investing.

But farms know more than anywhere else that every penny counts, and the economic – and environmental – challenges we face today mean investments have to go further than ever before.

This is why we need solutions, like our work with the Soil Association Exchange, that will help farms recognise – and get recognition for – the positive action they take. This kind of collaboration can help farmers maximise their investment, reduce their emissions and achieve fair rewards for doing so.

Adrian Burden, relationship director – agriculture, at Lloyds Bank

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