“There’s never been anything as important as the climate change maze we have to direct our businesses through.” This statement sums up a series of podcasts calling for farmers to collaborate and combat climate change together.
Speaking in one podcast, Mark Clark, MD of Grampian Growers, continued: “Looking at rotations of, for example, bulb or potato crops, we now have only one and a half rotations to cut emissions by 75 per cent before 2030.”
Rory Christie, a dairy farmer from the South West and Vice Chairman of SAOS – the co-operative body which commissioned the OnFARM podcast series – challenged farmers to work together before the power is taken out of their hands: “I think farmers are behind the curve on climate change. We need to face our responsibility and we need to work together before someone else takes control of the situation and we are just told what to do.”
Other voices were more upbeat, citing examples of what farmers are already doing to combat climate change. Graham Lofthouse, Director of Borders Machinery Ring, and a former AgriScot Sheep Farm of the Year stated: “We have to manage the land as best we can to protect our assets – and our biggest asset is soil. Here at Bankhouse, direct drilling is a much better option for us, for forage crops or direct grass reseeds going back in. Direct drilling holds the soil together, holds everything together – so that you don’t lose it down the river.”
“I’m also looking at grass seed mixtures which can better cope with extreme conditions, either extreme wet or extreme heat, and drought too.”
Angela Porchez of soft fruit co-op, Angus Growers highlighted in episode one what has already been achieved by their member businesses: “Over the past ten years we have pretty much discontinued the use of peat as a growing system, we are now primarily using coir. We also use biological controls; predatory insects as a way of controlling pest species rather than using chemical alternatives.”
Andy McGowan, MD of the Scottish Pig Producers co-op, stated: “Back in 2002 our co-op focussed on health improvement; health being the biggest constraint on efficiency in our members’ herds. We recognised back then that we could drive improvements better by working nationally and regionally rather than individual farms just doing their own thing. An outcome of this work is that farms are now more profitable and more efficient and the more efficient farms have lower carbon footprints.”
“One area that we do need to improve is measurement, we now need to measure more. But right now my suspicion would be that we have reduced the carbon footprint per Kg of Scottish pork by around 15 or 16 per cent.”
Andrew Moir, Chair of the Arable Climate Change Group, concurred with this view of more efficient businesses being more climate-friendly and called for more collaboration and for farmers to communicate via groups like his to ensure their views are heard by policymakers: “Co-operation is good for business! It is good for the climate. If you are co-operating with other farmers, other businesses, other groups, your efficiencies go up, business returns are better and greenhouse gases come down!”
“I want farmers to be part of the climate solution. Farmers have recently had the opportunity (through the sector Climate Change Groups) to give government ideas that are practical, things that we can do and are doing and will do in the future to mitigate greenhouse emissions.”
The mini-series of five OnFARM podcasts, which can be found at https://saos.coop/whats-new also features interviews with Mark Brooking of First Milk, Tim Wilson of Aspatria Farmers and Jim Booth of SAOS. Tim Wilson highlighted the fact that co-operatives can be a source of trusted advice for farmers looking at climate change issues, whereas commercial advisors may have other sales-driven priorities.
Ross Montague, OnFARM podcast presenter, commented: “These are incredibly interesting episodes to be involved and I urge farmers across all sectors of Scottish agriculture to have a listen. The short 20 minutes highlights episode focussing on the key messages, is a great place to start.”
“It’s incredible to think that many farmers have less than two crop rotations to identify and implement changes to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent in order to meet 2030 government targets.
“The overriding message is that by working together, farmers can, and are, tackling climate change, but, in order to hit the tough targets, every farmer has to realise that he or she can only be part of the solution if they collaborate, to share ideas and solutions.”