APRIL 23, 2010: Almost 40% of farm businesses are being affected by climate change, according to a survey of UK farmers.
Carried out by Farming Futures, a collaboration between farming organisations, DEFRA and sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, the survey found 60% of farmers think climate change will influence their business over the next decade. A third of farmers are already adapting to the impacts of global warming, while almost have are acting to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change, the survey says. While farmers think climate change will bring some threats such as floods and droughts, most think it will bring opportunities, such as prospects for growing alternative crops in a warmer climate, it adds. Of those farmers already making changes to their business, 26% are managing water more efficiently, 16% are changing crop practices and 11% are growing different crops. “One of the most significant impacts of climate change will be on water availability,” said Madeleine Lewis, strategic advisor at Farming Futures, an organisation set up to help farmers prepare for the effects of climate change. “Hotter, drier summers and the pressures of a growing population mean that growers are going to have to produce more crop per drop.” Almost half of those surveyed believe farming could be part of the climate change solution and are already acting to reduce emissions. The majority of these (47%) are improving energy efficiency, with 15% producing their own energy, 15% increasing fuel efficiencies and 10% improving manure management. “The good news is that a lot of actions which reduce your impact on the environment also make good business sense too,” Miss Lewis said. Just over 40% of farmers expect their investments to pay off within 10 years, with 27% saying it will take more than a decade. About half said they were confident the industry can meet government targets to reduce emissions by 11% by 2020. Priorities include reducing fuel use with more efficient machinery, opting for alternative energy sources and reducing fertiliser use. To meet this target, 82% of those questioned agreed farmers should work together to help reduce emissions. Ideas included co-operatives to share machinery, erect bio-digesters or wind farms and making best use of manure and fertilisers. “The UK is now legally bound to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050,” said Miss Lewis. “That’s a big cut and every sector of the economy is going to have to make changes. “Set this in context of a government strategy to increase renewable energy generation, secure a food supply for our growing population, and adapt to a climate that is already changing, and you can see that there is a big challenge ahead.”