By Matt Donald, pig & poultry farmer, north Yorkshire
I am always wanting to improve on our farm’s carbon footprint and reduce the environmental impact of how we farm. Doing this alongside aiming to reduce our costs of production always proves challenging. As future schemes are in development to enhance the environment, they must also lend themselves for efficient food production.
We have a growing nation to feed and in order for farms to feed the nation in a sustainable way, the price of food will likely need to rise. As the government phases out area payments and moves to ELM, it must be designed in a way to help farmers reduce the cost of production, through increasing productivity.
Constant investment is one of the ways we improve both environmental and financial performance across the whole business, most of these have been self-funded, due to the fact the poultry industry has had limited access to any direct grant funding, other than in renewable schemes. Therefore, the hope is the ELM scheme will open up doors to aid businesses who don’t have vast amounts of land to utilise.
It is frustrating that we know so little about the details of ELM so far. Farming mostly pigs and poultry, we have little land and will not miss BPS as much as many I know. However, we consume a lot of feed, therefore we still need arable farms to be planting fields of cereals, alongside environmental margin schemes to maintain cereal production levels.
We have seen declining self-sufficiency of wheat levels in recent years, if this continues we risk exporting our carbon footprint of food production abroad. We can produce food and farm sustainably, however the focus must be on getting more from existing land and only using the lesser productive land for the environment.