Following the release of the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) sixth carbon budget, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a challenge for Northern Ireland’s farming industry but farmers understand they have a role to play.

UFU deputy president David Brown said: “The UK’s population is growing daily and the UFU acknowledges there is a challenge in mastering the delicate balancing act between the rising demand for food, changing diets, land use and tackling climate change.

"However, agriculture is part of the solution and our farmers are committed to reducing emissions and doing all they can to reach 'net-zero'.

“UK farming produces some of the most sustainable food products in the world setting an example of high environmental, animal health and welfare standards.

Huge gains have already been made within the industry to address climate change. The NI dairy sector has reduced its carbon intensity by 34% since 1990 and greenhouse gas emissions from UK beef are half that of the world average.

“In the UK, 65% of farmland is best suited to grazing animals and the extensive nature of our grass-based farming systems are more sustainable.

"Grass-fed production helps NI farmers to manage habitats and produce a quality product from land that is unable to produce other crops.

“Diets have changed greatly over the past number of years, which is why proper consideration needs to be given to environmental pressures regarding food production.

"NI farmers produce high-quality products which consumers can have confidence in as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

'In our best interest'

Brown explained that farmers are at the mercy of the weather and are already coping with a changing climate and extreme weather events including floods, drought, severe snowfall and storms.

"Therefore, it is in their best interest to take action to address the shift in the earth’s climate system," he said.

The UFU has been part of NI’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Industry Partnership since its inception almost 10 years ago and has been working to deliver the targets set out in the strategy. This now needs to be revised to take account of these latest recommendations.

“The partnership was set up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture industry and we continue to be an integral member,” said Brown.

Farmers are at the forefront of climate change and recognise the need to tackle emission by improving production efficiencies, renewable energy and encouraging carbon capture

After the release of the CCC’s sixth carbon budget, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, launched a consultation on the NI Executive’s first-ever Climate Change Bill.

The UFU will examine both documents in further detail and will work with the government to make sure NI agriculture can continue to deliver trustworthy, high-quality sustainable food that benefits the environment and consumers.