I find it very frustrating when politicians jump on a bandwagon and go with some headline grabbing policy or statement without any consideration of the consequences.
The only thing some of them seem to be interested in is ensuring they get re-elected.
A common sense argument or logical solutions are not sexy enough to grab the headlines, and quite often, the scientists or people who can understand the full facts are overlooked.
I fully accept that climate change is happening and we all (as a society) need to change our way of thinking and our actions to try and roll back on this.
I also understand that we need to take action now and not five or 10 years down the line.
But what really annoys me is that some of our politicians seem to be quite prepared to sacrifice our agricultural industry without a second thought as to where our food would then come from.
Can I tell those politicians that our food would then be imported from far away countries.
Those very same places that are chopping down the rainforest, and whose traceability and animal welfare standards are far behind ours.
To top this off, it then has to be transported thousands of miles to our shores.
But that’s all OK, because we will have reached net zero for carbon emissions and all those emissions associated with food will be transferred to other countries.
In the meantime, we will have destroyed our agricultural industry and will probably have made climate change worse. Why can some of our politicians not see this?
Enough of the negativity. I am currently involved in the ARC Zero project, which is a group of seven farmers from all over NI, with different land types and farming activities that include sheep, sucklers, beef, dairying and crops.
As part of the project, we are in the process of obtaining a carbon base line for each of our farms. In the past, farmers have been told that we cannot measure the amount of carbon sequestered by our soils, grasses, hedgerows and trees.
But this is only a myth, and the tools are now coming forward.
Bringing this all together will create a baseline or starting point
We have gone through the carbon benchmarking process with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). The work has included soil sampling to both 10cm and 30cm to measure how much carbon is stored in our soils and at what depth it is stored. We have also done a lidar survey to measure our trees and hedgerows.
Bringing this all together will create a baseline or starting point. We will then be able to come back at some point in the future and go through the process again, so as to measure the change.
On top of this, we are actively pursuing ways of improving our carbon footprint. On my own farm, I have planted some multi-species swards, which are deeper rooting and therefore may be able to sequester more carbon.
Technical efficiencies are also very useful in lowering my carbon footprint
I am also trying to encourage more clover into the swards, with the hope of reducing the need for artificial fertiliser, thus reducing related emissions.
Technical efficiencies are also very useful in lowering my carbon footprint. That means carrying no passengers by keeping only productive cows that have a calf every year and rear calves that finish earlier.
I would urge all our politicians to listen up
A lot of this stuff I am already doing, but there is always room for improvement. We farmers have so much we can do to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we are more than prepared to do our fair share. Farmers are not the problem, they are the solution.
I would urge all our politicians to listen up. We will not be found wanting.
Let us get on with producing high-quality food and give us the tools (based on proper evidence-based advice) and encouragement to make changes, instead of trying to wipe us out.