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Majority of UK farmers believe their farms will be climate neutral by 2035

Image credit: Andrii Yalanskyi |

Over 80 per cent of farmers believe their farming operations will be carbon neutral by 2035, with two-thirds saying that sustainability is one of their top priorities, a new survey has revealed.

The poll of 1,000 farmers, carried out by Opinion Matters for Barclays, found that many were planning to plant more trees on their land and rewild parts of the farm to use new technologies.

65 per cent said that Covid-19 had been the catalyst for thinking about how to make their business more sustainable, while 69 per cent thought being sustainable will help them be more competitive, post-Brexit.

The belief that they can become carbon neutral by 2035 is five years ahead of the 2040 target set by the National Farmers Union (NFU) and 16 per cent say they have already reached the goal.

Another Opinion Matters survey of 2,000 shoppers found that they would be willing to pay an average of £192.40 per year to ensure they were only putting carbon-neutral foods in their shopping baskets. Extrapolating this to the entire country yields a willingness to spend an additional £10bn annually on low-carbon produce.

When farmers were asked what investments they were making to become more sustainable, over a quarter (26 per cent) said that they had or are planning to improve their waste and slurry management, while 25 per cent had spent or are planning to invest in agri-tech to become more efficient.

Respondents also suggested that they are planning to plant more trees and hedgerows (24 per cent), while 22 per cent will be investing in solar power and 21 per cent in wind turbines.

In addition, 68 per cent admitted that the UK would need a more resilient food system in order to cope with rising temperatures brought about by climate change.

Nigel Owens MBE, rugby union referee and farmer in Pontyberem, Wales said: “It’s great we’re starting to talk more about how farmers can further enhance the environment and be part of the climate change solution while keeping the nation fed and healthy, which is especially important at times like this.

“I’m a proud owner of 35 Herefordshire cows and cattle play an important role in the ecosystem when managed properly. Grassland is very good at capturing carbon from out of the atmosphere and soil is key to carbon sequestration policies, an underrated solution to tackling climate change. I’ll continue to plant more trees and will look into technologies that can help the farm to become more efficient, too.”

Mark Suthern, national head of agriculture at Barclays Business Bank, said: “There’s already a huge amount of work going on across farming enterprises of all types so their businesses can reach the carbon net-zero goal by 2040. It’s also encouraging to see consumers willing to pay for carbon-neutral foods, as we all consider our role in helping the industry become carbon neutral from farm to fork.

“Our research shows the average farmer set to invest £195,602 over the next decade to achieve greater efficiency and become more sustainable.”

A study earlier this year found that climate change may actually boost vegetation growth in the UK due to by factors such as warmer, wetter conditions and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stimulating plant growth.

Wine producers in Kent and the South East are already benefitting from better grape yields as climactic conditions shift towards those found on the continent.

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