Committee on Climate Change: Right on tenancies wrong on diet

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has reacted to the report published by the Committee on Climate Change, which looks at the contribution of land-use towards achieving net zero carbon emissions.

Despite congratulating the committee for picking up on the unique issues impacting the tenanted sector of agriculture in playing its full part in achieving net zero. The TFA has criticised the Committee for its call for a 20% reduction in the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy.

The Committee has identified that short-term farm tenancies and those with restrictive clauses, limit the extent to which tenant farmers are able to deliver long-term environmental objectives including those which help to sequestrate and store carbon including, through tree planting.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said “for years, the TFA has been arguing for a review of the taxation environment within which landlords make decisions to encourage longer term tenancies. It is great news, therefore, that the Committee has echoed our call in its new report. I hope that these points can be picked up in time by the Treasury, before the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers his budget at the beginning of March. Now is the opportunity to encourage longer term tenancies by incentivising those through the taxation framework – particularly through the manipulation of the inheritance tax relief available to landlords.”

However, the TFA has criticised the call for a reduction in meat and dairy consumption for not being based on sound science.

“UK livestock and dairy production is largely based on ancient grass systems which harvest considerable quantities of carbon from the atmosphere all year round. Grass farms are also massively efficient stores of carbon keeping it locked underground. Domestic livestock and dairy production is already carbon efficient and it is wrong to be arguing that consumers should be reducing the quantity of those foodstuffs in their diets,” said Mr Dunn.

Recent scientific research has concluded that whilst methane is a problem greenhouse gas, it breaks down relatively quickly in the atmosphere and doesn’t accumulate like carbon dioxide. It is also only recycling the carbon that has been fixed through photosynthesis, not adding to the carbon load through releasing previously stored carbon.

“Tree planting is part of a package of solutions for dealing with increasing concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere. However, we appear to be rushing headlong towards a policy of massive expansion of tree cover and reductions in land use for livestock which would lead us to offshore our carbon issues by sucking in ever greater quantities of meat and dairy products produced to lower carbon standards abroad. The best thing that UK consumers can do in respect of their diets is to switch away from imported products and consume more of the livestock and dairy products produced at home,” said Mr Dunn.

“We must pause and draw breath while we consider a proper systems approach to the issues we need to resolve,” said Mr Dunn.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.