Farming families can play a central role in helping meet the major environmental challenges of our time, says the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) on the 45th United Nations World Environment Day on June 5.
Speaking from his family’s hill farm in northern Snowdonia, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Everyone and every business, wherever they are and whatever they do, must play a role in tackling the threats to our climate and our environment.
“Farming families are best placed to play a central role in maintaining and improving valuable habitats, reducing our carbon footprints and improving farm efficiency, while ensuring we continue to produce quality food for a growing world population.”
Farming has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 16% since 1990, which means the industry now contributes 65 times less GHG than Welsh non agricultural sources. Nitrogen application has been reduced by 55 per cent since 1990.
“As an industry we are committed to accelerating our contribution to Wales becoming carbon-neutral and enhancing the Welsh environment,” said Mr Roberts. “The majority of Welsh renewable energy production takes place on farmland, and the bulk of the carbon stored in our trees and soils is also on farmland, but there is so much more that can be done.
“However, shortsighted or idealistic policies, which turn out to undermine the Welsh family farm, would cause huge damage to our society and culture, as well as our ability to rise to the challenge and undertake the work that needs doing.”
Mr Roberts said some of the extreme policies being discussed, such as rewilding, were a sad reflection of how detached from rural life some people were.
“Perhaps we should not be surprised at such extreme concepts given that three-quarters of the UK population now live in urban areas, but the reality is that rewilding would further damage ecosystems that have already suffered due to the loss of farm animals on which species and habitat rely. It would also cause economic and cultural damage to communities which have relied on agriculture for many thousands of years.”
A review of 276 studies of the impact of farmland abandonment conducted in 2014, by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, found that most areas did not see an improvement in biodiversity, particularly in Europe.
This is because traditional farmed landscapes create a mosaic of habitats for wildlife which disappear when areas become ‘wilded’.
“This type of habitat and species loss is exactly what our members have witnessed in areas of Wales where livestock numbers have been drastically reduced through scheme rules. Long term research conducted at Pwllpeiran also highlights the negative impacts of taking farming out of the equation,” said Mr Roberts.
“We need to focus on placing the environmental and financial sustainability of our family farms at the core of future policies,” he added.