Agriculture is currently undergoing unprecedented change and it is an industry that has a powerful impact on humanity and the animals of our planet.
Farmers have an increasingly challenging and crucial role in growing food, energy and fiber crops while balancing increased productivity, environmental protection and societal values.
This summer alone, extreme heat and lack of rain have led many UK and European farmers to grapple with the impact of extreme weather on crop yields and are looking for ways to build resilience into their production systems.
Empty shelves of fresh fruit and vegetables are increasingly common, a consequence of climate change and the slow response of supermarkets to paying more to compensate producers for increased costs.
Many producers are warning that if prices do not rise, they will not invest in next season’s crops at a time when local production is seen as desirable by consumers.
These are the fundamental reasons why we believe that farming is the biggest job on earth.
Increasingly, society has a vision of how the land should be used, what food should be grown and how much space should be given to nature on our UK farms.
Additionally, changing food choices, rising food prices and the need for sustainable food production add to the growing complexity of the roles and responsibilities of our UK farmers and producers.
Often these debates create uncomfortable conversations, however, history has proven that dialogue helps bridge differences and foster understanding.
Committed to supporting farmers to find the right balance
Society’s awareness and attitudes towards agriculture are important because consumer perceptions strongly influence purchasing decisions and their support for agricultural practices.
Where we have a strong emotional connection to a farmer’s story, and based on respect and understanding, that farmer’s freedom to operate their business is greatly enhanced.
BASF is committed to supporting farmers, helping them communicate and tell their story.
Farmer Colin Chappell says: “A few years ago I was just focusing on profit and bottom line, my approach was that the more you put into a crop, the more you get out of it.
“It’s fantastic. But this model only works for so long before you realize it’s broke.
“So you find other options, you find other ways and if those other ways include embracing the element of wildlife, it really fills you with pride that you can blend nature with a profitable agricultural philosophy.
“To me, sustainability means farming within my own means so that I can support my family while taking care of the environment and especially the water around me.”
Reconciling land use and nature
Jon Williams, Director of Public and Government Affairs at BASF, is passionate about engaging with stakeholders on policy changes to assess and understand the potential impact on the industry.
“Farmers have an uncertain time ahead of them, further legislative reforms from policy makers and greater consumer expectations, which focus on future income streams, availability of labor and capital and access to wider markets.
“Much of the next few decades will be revenue generated by greener agriculture, from both the public and private sectors.
“The balance between land use, land management and how sustainable soil health is generated will become more complex and nuanced as the potential for gains from carbon trading and biodiversity enter decision-making. agricultural businesses.
“As it gets more complex, we want to help drive those conversations, where we can, in an informative, engaging, and empowering way.”
Feeding conscious minds and bellies
The pandemic has put rural food and green space higher on the societal and media agenda, it has encouraged people to be more aware of food – what they eat, where it comes from and how it was cultivated. People noticed nature in cities and rural areas.
For those who can afford food and access to green spaces, the legacy has been an increased level of awareness of their choices.
However, for many households, food choice comes down to affordability, as the squeeze on the cost of living affects a growing number of households.
Agriculture is essential to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, affordable and nutritious food, as well as to maintain a healthy space for nature.
These sometimes contradictory demands are difficult to manage, and even less to communicate.
What technologies are acceptable in agriculture?
Tied to consciousness is the consumer’s right to choose the technologies and inputs to use to grow their food.
To make these decisions, consumers need information to help them understand the consequences of their choices – for example, fewer agricultural inputs steadily lower yields and raise food prices; conversely, maintaining low food prices depends on high production efficiency and intensity, high yields and low costs.
These choices are also linked to the country’s food security and its ability to produce the range of foods that society wants.
Rising food and agricultural inflation
Jon Williams adds: “Rising costs not only affect households, but they also affect businesses, including agriculture.
“The ability of food manufacturers and retailers to keep prices low has ended and the food supply chain has no choice but to pay more for its raw materials from primary producers.
“Communication about why prices are rising is something the food and agriculture sectors have had to grasp, not being paid more to cover rising costs is no longer an option.
“The explanations are complex – the increased emphasis on national dietary diversity is now back on the agenda of policy makers – growing more fruits and vegetables, in particular – but it takes time to bring this production into production. and labor shortages to plant, pick and pack have not gone away.
Why is talking to society so important?
Colin Chappell, a farmer, says talking to people is vital and is key to his approach: “If you’re isolated on your farm, with your own thoughts and your own anger and you throw stuff on the TV and you try to counter criticism that seems to be aimed at farmers, find a way to connect with people and talk.
“I talk to the public about what we do. I can see their point of view, and if I can, in some way, help them better understand where the food comes from, then maybe I just won in this situation.
Jon adds, “There is an undeniable resilience among farmers to navigate and meet society’s grand challenges as the world navigates towards net zero; no doubt, in the midst of difficulties, opportunities will arise.
“At the heart of doing something different, agriculture must continue to embrace new innovations and digital technologies, and fully embrace IPM, invest in soil health, and harness the power of nature in food production.
“As the demands for change grow more complex, our team is committed to helping farmers find the right balance to feed, clothe and feed future generations. We share the mission of agriculture: to leave a positive and lasting legacy and to thrive.
Learn more about our Agriculture, the biggest job in the world Activities.