Farm subsidies take the UK away from net zero

Farm union NFU wants a two-year delay, but Green Alliance says the move would keep emissions high, pushing net zero beyond 2035.

According to a new analysis, there will be a “substantial gap” in UK agriculture’s efforts to reach net zero if post-Brexit eco-friendly subsidies are delayed for two years.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the government to postpone the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) until 2025 and maintain the EU Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in the meantime, which pays farmers for the amount of land they own, regardless of their impact on the environment.

Representatives say this is aimed at providing some stability during a tumultuous time for UK farmers, with fertilizer prices soaring due to the war in Ukraine, Covid-related staff shortages, the departure of temporary workers from the EU and other Brexit issues. The Labor Party’s shadow Defra secretary Jim McMahon endorsed the NFU’s position.

However, analysis by think tank Green Alliance shows that delaying Elms, the main way to help farmers decarbonise, would lead to agricultural emissions savings in 2035 of half of what they could have been if the program Elms had been implemented.

Since emissions savings are cumulative, this would put additional pressure on other areas to decarbonise even faster to make up for this loss, leaving a “substantial gap in UK net zero plans”, according to the report.

The road to net zero in jeopardy

Agriculture, forestry and other land uses must cut emissions by a quarter by 2030 and by a third by 2035, under the government’s proposed net zero trajectory.

“The flagship Elms program is responsible for one-third of agricultural emission reductions,” said Dustin Benton, Green Alliance policy director and author of the report. “Instead of supporting Britain’s leading farmers to make their farms more sustainable, as the government promised during the Brexit process, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) accuses six years delay after the referendum.

“Delaying farm payment reforms for another two years would jeopardize the UK’s climate goals and undermine a transition that the UK’s best farmers have already invested in. system before the competition.

The Green Marine report argues that for smaller, less profitable farms, rapidly rising diesel and fertilizer prices strengthen the case for a rapid change in BPS.

“Reducing inputs such as fertilizer increased profits [para estas granjas] even before the recent price increase,” the report said. “Many of these farms are well endowed with natural capital, but they are not well endowed with high-yielding land for food production.

If these small farms were paid for public goods [en forma de naturaleza] that they can improve their farms, it would likely increase the profitability of their farms relative to the BPS. »

Elms’ original start date was 2020, and the public accounts committee has already criticized the delays. In February, NFU leader Minette Batters slammed the government for “frequently facing crises” over a lack of post-Brexit planning for the industry, saying it showed a ” total lack of understanding of how food production works”.

Matter of trust?

Many farmers would have little faith in the government to manage the transition.

NFU Senior Field Advisor Claire Robinson said: “UK farmers are committed to doing their part to tackle the climate crisis, with an ambition to reach net zero by 2040.

However, the conflict in Ukraine has driven up food production costs around the world, and we need to give businesses the confidence to keep producing our food.

“Continuing with the originally planned BPS reductions would eliminate what for many farmers is their only means of subsistence, and when the replacement is not yet ready.

A short delay in BPS cuts will give farmers and government more time to work together to put in place sustainable programs and policies that align with our ambition to become a world leader in food and agriculture. climate friendly. »

Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis told the Guardian that Defra would not delay the implementation of Elms . “The surface subsidy granted half of the operating budget to 10% of the owners. The BPS did not support food production and did nothing to stop nature’s decline.

We must seize the opportunity to establish a different system of rewards and incentives in farming, and I am happy that we support farmers in the decisions they make for their own farms.

By Phoebe Westton. Articles in English

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