Demonstrating that beef and sheep producers are working to tackle environmental emissions and meet tough Government targets is vital if the industry is to stave off additional regulation.
Nick Allen, sector director of EBLEX, believes the work not only suggests practical ways for farmers to cut their carbon footprint but also acts as the vehicle to demonstrate that the industry takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.
The comments come in the wake of the launch of the levy-funded
organisation's second beef and sheep roadmap. Testing The Water details EBLEX research linking environmental performance to economic performance, effectively showing that the more efficient a beef or sheep enterprise is in terms of emissions levels, the better its financial margins. For the first time it also gives a reliable water usage footprint for the industry, examines the biodiversity value beef and sheep farming brings to the countryside, and benchmarks where the processing sector is on water and energy use.
It follows on from Phase One of the roadmap, Change in the Air, launched in November 2009, which focused on carbon emissions and energy use.
Taken together, the roadmaps offer a snapshot of a number of important performance markers and offer practical advice on what individual enterprises can do to improve their own efficiency.
"Climate change remains one of the most important issues facing the industry today. It doesn't matter whether you wholly believe in it, whether the figures quoted to us are reliable or the exact extent to which beef and sheep production contributes to the UK's overall emissions, which remains the subject of debate at the highest level," said Nick.
"The simple fact is that the Government is using carbon emissions as the yardstick to measure our industry's environmental performance, irrespective of other factors which mitigate methane production as a by-product of rumination, such as pastures being a significant carbon sink. We therefore have to conduct work in this area but it does not preclude us from highlighting other areas of importance, like water usage, as we have done, to build a bigger, and more accurate, picture of livestock production and its more positive performance on the environment than the one often painted.
"The Government has challenged English farmers to reduce their annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a level at least 11% lower than current predictions by 2020. Overall, the UK's Low Carbon Transition Plan calls for greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 18%. Failure by the industry to tackle these challenges could result ultimately in legislation for farmers and even a possible carbon tax, both of which would be additional financial burdens.
"Carbon trading is already being phased in in New Zealand and feedback suggests it will have a significant impact, with the red meat supply chain being hit with additional cost. It is entirely possible such a measure could be looked at for the UK if we do not improve our performance.
"We all have a duty to help improve the efficiency of the industry. With the two roadmaps and our ongoing knowledge transfer of the information contained therein through our Better Returns Programme, we are doing what we can to arm individual producers with the tools they need to not only cut their carbon footprint but also to improve their financial margins at the same time."
EBLEX produces a range of materials, distributed through the Better Returns Programme, aimed at helping improve technical efficiency. It is also working on a new range of targeted materials for producers seeking more technically innovative solutions. If you would like to join the Better Returns Programme, visit www.eblex.org.uk/returns/ If you feel you would like to contribute to the production of future materials for producers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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