Vice President's Blog - 27 September 2019

To say last week’s North American/European Union farming conference in Copenhagen was an opportunity to understand what farming is like in other parts of the world is a huge understatement writes Vice President Martin Kennedy.

The conference is non-stop for three days, so information overload becomes a reality.

One thing became glaringly apparent as the conference progressed, whether you were in America, Europe, Mexico or Canada, agriculture doesn't get the recognition it deserves, and everyone was concerned about prices for their products.

Although it was heartening to know that we are not alone in this global challenge, it was definitely disheartening to know that, for all the efforts farmers go to to produce the one thing we can't do without, there was relatively little recognition from the consumer for the food and drink on their table.

Climate change was high on the agenda and this led to concerns over consumer confidence, and farmers receiving a disproportionate amount of blame when it came to carbon emissions. There were figures quoted that highlighted some of the sequestration of carbon that was going on in farming, but it fell short of an internationally recognised calculation.

This led me to challenge the conference and urge them to collectively use our research and development, technology and innovation resources to highlight the benefits of our industry.

I informed them that I now do a carbon audit through a beef efficiency scheme and I produce 17kg of carbon for every kg of meat I produce. But nobody is telling me how many kgs of carbon I am sequestering through my grazing management. Due to the Paris agreement, we can only count the negatives, and this is fundamentally wrong I said to the conference that we need to develop a standardised system that measures the positive contribution agriculture makes to carbon sequestration.  We may in fact find that many of us are already carbon positive.

Our industry is the only one that has such a positive story to tell, both in terms of carbon sequestration and environmental gains, so it is vital that the true facts are known so that Governments and ultimately the consumer can trust us and give us the recognition we deserve or we may lose the ability to be part of the solution.

This is something we are taking steps to do here in Scotland, where we are justifiably proud about how green we are.  We have some of the best research institutes in the world, so why don't we task them with developing a standardised calculation that does measure how much carbon we sequester through our arable crops and grasslands?

In addition, NFU Scotland now has a fellowship in place through the Scottish Research institutes (SEFARI) and we will say more about Dr Gemma Miller in the coming weeks.  NFUS is also about to appoint a full-time climate change policy manager.  We will embrace this opportunity to establish the true facts about our industry.

This would give the Scottish Government and, more importantly, Scottish farmers and crofters something to shout about and, I believe, would provide true recognition that proves that Scottish agriculture is already carbon positive.

What a message that would be to send across the world, and what a difference it could make to the consumption and price of all our Scottish products!

What are we waiting for?

Author: Martin Kennedy

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Anthony Philip Bown

1670 days ago

The whole of the NFUS membership should read Gabe Brown's book Dirt to Soil or look him up on YouTube. He explains how to farm profitably and sustainably whilst sequestering carbon. No need for expensive research, the work has already been done. Just needs to be implemented.
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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is a tenant farmer in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire Branch chair, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin went on to be Vice-Chair before chairing the committee for three years. He was elected Vice-President in 2017 and elected as President in 2021.

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