Additional investment needed to support agriculture meet net zero targets, says NSA

Additional investment needed to support agriculture meet net zero targets, says NSA

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is calling for additional investment to support agricultural businesses in meeting the sector’s net zero targets.

Sheep in a field.

Following last week’s launch of the Government’s strategies for green investment and frameworks for nature markets on what was labelled ‘Green day’, NSA has welcomed the plans but believes they fall short and fail to specify the investment needed for agriculture.
The Association recognises the Government’s commitment to maintain its £2.4 billion public investment in farming and the environment in this Parliamentary term, and to fulfil its contracted obligations beyond then, but it says these plans strongly paint the picture of new private money working alongside Government programmes and bolstering public funds.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Defra estimates that agriculture still accounts for 11% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. NSA fears that while other industries have seen high levels of investment Defra policies are currently inadequate to enable targets to be met, and new Future Farming schemes are not being adequately measured and evaluated in terms of their contribution to net zero. 
“Defra is being widely blamed for a lack of investment in policies that lead us to net zero and as a result agriculture is lagging behind improvements being made in some other industries such as the energy sector where moves towards renewables are clear to see.”
NSA has welcomed the commitments from Defra to:

  • Work to a target of securing £1 billion of private funding into nature recovery by 2030.
  • Work with the British Standards Institute to develop a range of nature investment standards providing clear rules for how farmers can access private payments for nature provision.
  • Develop a consistent approach for measuring greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Complete a consultation on the tax implications of selling environmental goods.

Inadequate budget 

Stocker continued: “Whilst a committed £2.4 billion budget for the next few years gives some comfort to the industry NSA has always been of the opinion that the budget is inadequate if a true value is placed on the public goods already delivered by agriculture, let alone delivering more in the future to meet our climate, nature and natural resource challenges. 
“We absolutely should expect future governments to not just continue this investment into our industry but to increase the budget based on the challenges ahead. While agriculture needs to reduce emissions, we also need agreed methods to take account of the entire carbon cycle including the role of sequestration in soils, grassland, and farm habitats such as hedgerows.  The more we can reduce emissions the more offsetting sequestration opportunities arise to create income for the farm business, so to focus on both makes sense. We also need to make sure these private funding opportunities are made accessible for your average farmer not just for large operators or wildlife organisations who have the ability to produce a glossy prospectus.”
NSA believes there is huge potential in untapped resources on farms that could help the nation deliver net zero and take advantage of the green finance strategy but this needs changes in planning, taxation, and tenancy rules, and it needs advice and facilitation.
Stocker concluded: “There are already income generating opportunities for some farmers in sequestering carbon, cleaning natural resources such as water, and providing for nature – but farmers are rightly nervous of getting involved due to being uncertain about brokering the deal, the actual values being offered, and whether they will need this themselves to offset their own farming activities in the future. There is little point in selling carbon credits today and in a few years’ time finding we have to offset our footprints by buying from others, potentially at a higher cost. We urgently need the Government and Defra to implement the frameworks that allow this to happen so that farmers can spread income opportunities across food production and delivery of public goods and services.”

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