Farming efforts to delay eco-friendly subsidies risk hitting net zero – report | Agriculture

According to a new analysis, there will be a “substantial gap” in UK farming’s efforts to reach net zero if post-Brexit eco-friendly subsidies are delayed for two years.

The National Union of Farmers (UNF) is urging the government postpone Environmental Land Management (Elms) schemes until 2025 and maintain the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) during the interim period, which pays farmers for the amount of land they own , regardless of its impact on the environment.

Representatives say this is aimed at providing some stability during a tumultuous time for UK farmers, with fertilizer prices soaring due to the war in Ukraine, Covid-related staff shortages, the departure of seasonal workers from the EU and other Brexit issues. Labor Defra shadow secretary Jim McMahon supported the position of the NFU.

However, analysis by think tank Green Alliance shows that delaying Elms – the main way to help farmers decarbonise – would lead to reductions in agricultural emissions by 2035 of half what they might have been if the Elms program had been delivered on time. As emissions savings are cumulative, this would put more pressure on other areas to decarbonise even faster to make up for this loss, leaving a ‘substantial gap in the UK’s net zero plans’ . according to the report.

Agriculture, forestry and other land uses must cut their emissions by a quarter by 2030 and by a third by 2035, according to the government report. net zero path proposal. “The flagship Elms program is responsible for one-third of agricultural emission reductions,” said Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance and author of the report. “Rather than helping the UK’s leading farmers to make their farms more sustainable, as the government promised during the Brexit process, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra ) is dragging its feet six years after the referendum.

“Delaying farm payment reforms for another two years would jeopardize the UK’s climate goals and undermine a transition that the UK’s best farmers have already invested in. system before the competition.

The Green Marine report argues that for less profitable small farms, rapidly rising diesel and fertilizer prices strengthen the case for a rapid move away from BPS. “Reducing inputs like fertilizer increased profits [for these farms] even before the recent price spike,” the report said. “Many of these farms are well endowed with natural capital but not well endowed with high yield land for food production. If these small farms were paid for public goods [in the form of nature] they can improve their farms, it would probably increase the profitability of their farm compared to the BPS. »

Elms’ original start date was 2020, and delays have already been criticized by the Public Accounts Committee. In February, NFU leader Minette Batters criticized the government for ‘running into crises repeatedly’ over the lack of post-Brexit planning for the industry, saying it showed a ‘lack of total understanding of how food production works”.

Many farmers would have little confidence in the government to manage the transition.

Claire Robinson, NFU Senior Campaign Adviser, said: “UK farmers are committed to doing their part to tackle the climate crisis, with an ambition to reach net zero by 2040. However, the conflict in Ukraine has driven up the costs of food production around the world. , and we need to give businesses the confidence to keep producing our food.

“Continuing with the originally planned BPS cuts would remove what is for many farmers their only lifeline, and while the replacement is not yet ready. A short delay in BPS reductions will give farmers and government more time to work together to put in place sustainable programs and policies that align with our ambition to become a world leader in food and agriculture. climate friendly.

Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis told the Guardian that Defra would not delay the implementation of Elms. “The area subsidy gave half of the agricultural budget to 10% of the landowners. The BPS did not support food production and did nothing to stop nature’s decline. We must seize the opportunity to establish a different system of rewards and incentives in farming – and I am happy that we are supporting farmers in the choices they make for their own farms.

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