Farming News - TFA rails against Anaerobic Digestion

TFA rails against Anaerobic Digestion

17 Jul 2013
Frontdesk / Renewables


On Monday, Tenant Farmers Association Vice Chair Stephen Wyrill raised questions about the rapid expansion of a means of generating renewable energy that has proven popular with farmers in recent years.   


Mr Wyrill expressed concerns over the rapid rise in the number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants using agricultural crops as feedstocks, claiming demand for these digesters could prove unsustainable and drive up farm rents.


Although TFA doesn't campaign on the issue of renewable energy, Wyrill said he supports the drive to develop renewables.  However, he went on, TFA believes that policy makers have not paid due attention to the potential wider impacts of the drive for AD.


The TFA Vice Chair explained, "It is a major concern that a significant number of existing and proposed AD plants have identified maize and/or grass silage as appropriate feedstocks.  Whilst the TFA understands the rationale for using slurry combined with other waste products such as green waste and food waste, it does not see the justification for using land specifically to grow crops as feedstocks for AD plants. 


"Not only does this appear to undermine the perceived carbon reduction benefits of AD, it also adds significantly to the burden on the agricultural industry given the strong competition that already exists for access to agricultural land," he added.


Last week, the European Parliament voted to back Commission proposals to cap first generation biofuel production over concerns that creating fuel from agricultural crops is driving indirect land use change (the conversion of more 'natural land' to agriculture) and exacerbating volatility in world food prices. Although biofuel (and some farming) lobby groups in the EU were outraged by the move, which would set limitations on the burgeoning industry, EU leaders said the restrictions form part of an attempt to promote advanced biofuels, made from waste, algae and other sources which do not compete with food production. 


TFA spokesperson Mr Wyrill also claimed the situation in the UK, and concentration of AD plants in "relatively small areas" of the country, has impacted on rental prices. He said, "In areas with significant AD capacity we have seen land rents reach unsustainable levels as competition for land to grow maize for AD plants has intensified.  Farmers looking for land to grow feed for livestock are left having either to look further afield at significantly higher cost, or go without access to sufficient ground for their production needs causing them to have to buy in feed again at very high prices."


He continued, "The West Midlands is a case in point.  The concentration of AD plants in that area is reaching untenable levels particularly where those plants are reliant upon growing crops as feedstocks.  It is essential when considering applications for new AD plants to take into consideration the extent to which an area is already serviced by AD plants which will be competing for feedstocks in the local area already."