Whole farm approach at heart of UK agricultural transition, DEFRA Minister


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Whole farm approach at heart of UK agricultural transition, DEFRA Minister

January 17, 2022

Labels could inform consumers about farm management

In early January, Britain’s Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Victoria Prentis, said she believed the future of farming lay in managing the whole of operation.

“The whole farm approach will be central to the transition to farming,” Prentis said during a panel discussion organized by the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) at the Oxford Real Farming conference. “But most farmers are not ready for this, although we encourage people to take the steps to make it happen.

The panel event marked the launch of the NFFN’s new report: Agriculture for Climate Action: What are we waiting for? The report provides a comparison of UK government and devolved climate and nature targets, as well as an overview of UK agriculture and land use and the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect (GhG) in each agricultural system.

It features an infographic of a whole farming system approach with eight areas where practices can actively reduce GHGs and help agricultural businesses become more resilient and protected against the effects of climate change.

“Many farmers are waiting for programs to come years from now rather than making changes now because we have become so embedded in a payment system that has rewarded the size of the land instead of what we do with that land in as a public benefit affecting both biodiversity and our climate,” said Martin Lines, UK Chair of NFFN.

Asked what the government was doing to ensure farmers were not disadvantaged in the transition from old to new regimes, Prentis said farming had been ‘infantilized by the CAP’ and that farmers “will absolutely not be penalized for [scheme] adoption.”

During the conference, farmers Denise Walton and Hywel Morgan discussed their transitions to a whole farm approach that mitigates the impacts of climate change.

Morgan, a cattle rancher in Myddfai, farms 230 acres without fertilizer and with reduced chemical sprays. He reduced the stocks of purchased food from 18 tons to 3-4 tons.

Moving away from ground disturbances, he plants herbaceous meadows with deep rooting systems, including chicory, plantain and clover. After “too many years” of ryegrass, he said, “As an upland prairie farmer, why would I want to kill the self-seeding perennial grass to plant new grass? I keep thinking ‘why did I do this every year’?”

His efforts resulted in higher soil pH levels and better carbon storage.

“My income dropped about 20%, but my profits still increased because the less I spent, the better. I am better off now financially than I have been for years.

Denise Walton, a farmer with Pasture for Life in Scotland, said she gave up chemical inputs in order to improve their grasslands through rotational grazing, planting trees and maintaining species-rich grasslands.

“We have changed our grazing system by dividing our fields into smaller paddocks where we rotate groups of 10 cattle in 10-acre paddocks with three days of grazing and three days of rest,” she said. declared.

“In the past, until we were dependent on agrochemicals, but since we stopped using sprays and inorganic fertilizers, we have seen an incredible improvement in the efficiency of our grass and its ability to recycle nutrients, including carbon,” she added. We save almost £70,000 a year with less use of tractors, less fuel and no imported raw materials.

Prentis spoke about his vision for British farming in 10 years, saying there will be a “really good labeling system” which will mean consumers will be “much more aware” of what they are consuming and that British agriculture will produce “at least 60% of the food we eat.”

“I think we will, taken as read, share space with nature on our farms. Landscape-wise, there will be areas that will be spared and many more bogs will be rewet. I sincerely hope that many more farms will be like Denise and Hywel’s,” Prentis said.





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