Tuesday 4 February 2020Why Does Agriculture Need to Improve Sustainability?
Why Does Agriculture Need to Improve Sustainability?
Living, as we are, in the grip of a climate emergency, sustainability is at the top of the farming agenda. Why? Because feeding the world’s growing population and leaving future generations a habitable planet depends upon it.
In the simplest terms, a sustainable farming operation is one that maintains or increases yields while also maintaining or improving environmental benefits. The desired outcomes being:
- The production of enough food to nourish current and future populations
- The protection and restoration of the natural environment and securing of future land productivity
- The creation of commercially viable systems that support farming businesses and the quality of life of those involved in them
Anyone working on Britain’s land – and almost 500,000 of us do – will have observed to some degree the challenges we face. They include:
- climate change and increasingly frequent extreme weather events
- loss of biodiversity
- reduction in soil fertility
- water shortages
Currently, our use of natural resources outstrips nature’s ability to regenerate them. Waste of all sorts – including water, food crops and so-called ‘by-products’ – is central to this problem.
The pressures of dealing with the food demands of a growing population and the challenges posed by environmental change have crept up slowly, but now the situation is urgent. A new outlook is needed – in our everyday lives, in industry, in government and in agriculture. Looking the other way isn’t an option.
There’s been a sea change in the conversation, with everyone – from individuals to global corporations – realising they can and must do their bit. It’s our collective responsibility to safeguard the future.
Pressures On Farming Businesses
The reality of running an agricultural business is a tough one. The pressures that apply to family farms also influence multinationals. They include:
- Maintaining and improving productivity
- Safeguarding profitability
- Protecting animal welfare
- Taking responsibility for environmental stewardship
- Complying with regulations
- Using resources effectively and sensitively
- Managing criticism from lobbies with different agendas
It can be hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re operating in a challenging environment. But taking a sustainable approach isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity, and it can help tackle some of the issues facing today’s farmers. It’s likely your customers will have their own sustainability agenda and their continued business may rely upon your proactivity in this area.
There’s no sustainability silver bullet that has the answer to all of the challenges faced by agriculture. Brexit may offer opportunities for government to make wholesale changes that support the farming industry in moving forward. The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) – widely criticised for incentivising damaging practices – is on its way out. Whatever replaces it will certainly have a keen eye on environmental protection and restoration.
The geographical diversity of the UK and the needs of different sectors makes a one-size-fits-all approach to sustainable farming impractical. By following two over-arching guiding principles, farmers (and, indeed, everyone) can make a difference.
- Use resources efficiently – maximising reuse and minimising waste in a virtuous circle
- Minimise impact – from energy consumption to emissions
Government policy alone isn’t the solution – individuals and businesses adopting their own initiatives will count, too. You might feel the difference you could make is small. But if we all did something, what a powerful force for positive change that would be.
Want to get started? Find out how Duynie feeds could be a part of your sustainability story.