The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) has published new guidance which addresses some concerns raised by NI farmers about new carbon footprint calculations.

The carbon surveys are to become a compulsory part of the NI beef and lamb farm quality assurance scheme (FQAS), so farmers will need to participate to stay FQAS accredited.

However, new LMC guidance states that the results which come from carbon surveys will have no bearing on the outcome of FQAS inspections. “There is no pass or fail criteria associated with the survey,” the guidance reads.

Instead, the survey will generate a specific carbon footprint for each farm. This will include all enterprises on the farm, not just beef and lamb.

According to the LMC, all data associated with the carbon survey will remain under the ownership of each farmer.

However, the guidance states that “aggregate information” will be available to be shared, and it could be used for “industry-wide assessments and trends”. One potential example might be the average carbon footprint of FQAS beef and how it changes over time.

The exact use of data generated from carbon surveys is to be decided by a new carbon steering group which is made up of representatives from various industry bodies and is currently chaired by UFU president David Brown.

The LMC states that aside from the time required to gather the information, the carbon survey will not involve any additional financial cost for farmers.

DAERA is currently assessing how it can fund costs associated with the carbon surveys, although the LMC points out that information from the surveys “will not be used for enforcement purposes”.

Farmers will be asked to complete carbon surveys every three years.

As routine FQAS inspections take place every 18 months, presumably a carbon survey will be completed after every other inspection.