Farming News - Industry asks where was food and farming in the ten-point green plan?

Industry asks where was food and farming in the ten-point green plan?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has published his 10-point plan as part of the government’s green industrial revolution to put the country on course for net zero emissions by 2050.

The 10-point plan includes:

  • Harness nature’s ability to absorb carbon by planting 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025 and rewilding 30,000 football pitches’ worth of countryside.
  • A previously announced pledge to quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, to 40GW, enough to power every UK home.
  • £1bn in 2021 for funds to insulate homes and public buildings, using the existing green homes grant and public sector decarbonisation scheme.
  • An extra £200m invested in carbon capture initiatives.
  • Moves to promote public transport, cycling and walking, although no new schemes were announced.

NFU President Minette Batters said:

“The NFU’s ambition is for British farmers to be global leaders in sustainable climate-friendly food production, alongside their role in maintaining and improving the iconic British countryside which they have done over generations.

“While planting trees to store carbon will play an important part in agriculture’s commitment to reach net zero by 2040, farmers must decide voluntarily to engage in tree planting and be rewarded fairly for the long-term commitment they’re signing up to, and the public goods delivered. The government should also financially incentivise farmers for good management of existing woodland.

“The NFU believes a comprehensive approach is needed to realise our net zero ambition. Plans for agriculture include boosting productivity to bring down food production emissions, as well as on-farm carbon storage in hedges, trees and soils, and deploying more renewable energy.

“We will examine the detail of the Prime Minister’s 10-point green recovery plan and look forward to working with government to achieve our net zero goal by 2040.”

Joanna Lewis from the The Soil Association wrote: 

"All eyes were on the landmark new commitment to bring forward the ban on petrol and diesel car sales to 2030. But where were food and farming? If we are going to make a real commitment for a green recovery in the UK we can’t solely rely on a few press-worthy commitments. We need a 'Grow Back Better' manifesto for food, farming and land use. The food we eat and the way we produce it must be a climate priority.

"We were disappointed to see the 10-point plan fail to include a legally binding target for soil health in the Environment Bill and a requirement for all farmers to monitor and improve their soil health as a condition of all farm support. The UK should also be matching or exceeding the EU’s targets to cut Nitrogen fertiliser use and grow organic to 25% total farmland, both key steps for regenerating our soils.

"Yes, we need trees. But we need the right trees in the right places for nature and the climate, not empty targets and blanket conifer planting. So far, all tree planting targets have been missed. Farmers are the key to turning this around; they are the stewards of our land. They should be supported to lead the UK’s efforts through farm woodlands and agroforestry systems that boost farm productivity and benefit animal welfare and soil health too.

"The Government’s advisors, the Climate Change Committee, have signalled the importance of agroforestry. The Government must urgently clarify that farmers will be rewarded for planting trees or allowing natural tree regeneration in the new farm support framework."

Ruth Westcott, climate change campaign coordinator at Sustain, said:

"It is - of course - very welcome to see action from the Prime Minister on climate change, but astonishing and disappointing that there are no proposals to tackle emissions from food growing, production, manufacturing, and our diets. The evidence is clear, we cant limit warming to 1.5 dergees or chieve net zero without addressing food.

"Government must urgently do better. As a start, public sector food needs to exemplify what a good diet looks like; low in meat and dairy, high in fruit and vegetables, with seasonal and locally-sourced, ecologically made produce and not much ultra-processed food. The government promised in their manifesto to support more top-standard British growers and producers through public food but this is completely missing from today's proposals.

"New farm support schemes and guidance - and sufficient budget - should be directed towards making farms deliver nature, biodiversity and climate goals. 

"New data shows that food is not adequately covered in local councils' climate plans. Investment needs to be channeled to local areas, via councils, to help them deliver solutions that benefit their communities including freeing up land for small-scale horticulture, planting fruit and nut trees including traditional orchards, buying food from more locally beneficial, low-waste supply chains, or supporting a thriving local food high street.

"Food should be at the heart of a green recovery from Covid-19.  If we grew more food on our land using agro-ecological techniques like organic, we could greatly increase biodiversity, produce more of our own fruit and veg, and increase rural employment. 

"This kind of investment is greatly needed at the moment, as many in the food and farming sector have suffered so badly since the Covid-19 outbreak."