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Sustainable Intensification and phasing out Pillar 1: Defra’s answer to climate change?

15th Apr 2013


Will Sustainable Intensification protect the environment and maintain yeilds?

Britain’s farmers must embrace sustainable intensification in order to meet future global food demands and reduce their carbon footprint, claims Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

In its latest evidence plan, The Sustainable Land and Soils and Sustainable and Competitive Farming Strategy for 2013/14 to 2017/18, Defra describes the government’s desired policy outcomes in relation to greener farming.

The plan recognises the farming sector’s need to produce more food with fewer resources but that in the past, this has come at the cost of the environment. If British farming is to remain competitive while protecting the environment, then UK agriculture must become a leader in sustainable intensification:

“Sustainable intensification means simultaneously raising yields, increasing the efficiency with which inputs are used and reducing the negative environmental effects of food production”.

They will achieve this goal by pursuing 3 broad policy objectives:

  1. Bring more farms up to current best practice – By improving the worst performing farms, the industry’s environmental impact is reduced while increasing its economic contribution.

  2. Advance the frontier of best agricultural practice through cutting edge research and technology – new technologies and farming methods offer the potential for increased efficiency and environmental performances while keeping farmers competitive.

  3. Achieving a balance between environmental and production outcomes – where the trade-off between cost and environmental benefit becomes too great, schemes such as the Environmental Stewardship and the new Rural Development Scheme for England (RDPE) will incentivise green farming initiatives.

The Sustainable Land and Soils and Sustainable and Competitive Farming Strategy is just one of thirty reports covering all aspects of the British countryside: amongst proposals discussed in the evidence plan, Defra recommends influencing CAP reform, including the proposed eventual phase out of Pillar 1. From these reports it’s clear that Defra is serious about climate change and serious that Britain’s farmers play their part in tackling climate change.

But in the same year the evidence plan is due to begin, Defra’s budget will be slashed by £20 million, rising to £35 million in 2015. While many of the policy initiatives outlined in the plan advocate improved efficiency for farmers and government alike, it remains to be seen how the government will implement these goals amidst ever-tightening budgets.

Defra’s report reflects many of FCCT’s goals for greener farming and we welcome the proposals set forth in the evidence plan. The FCCT has a complete toolkit for reducing farm GHG emissions and improving efficiency on your farm, including its own carbon calculator, all of which is freely available on its website.

Defra's evidence plans for 2013/2014 - 2017/2018 can be found at: