UK farmers committed to improving environmental standards
22nd November 2018
New research shows UK farmers are taking action on the environment, with an overwhelming 98% saying they have measures in place to drive environmental improvements on their farms. The latest
New research shows UK farmers are taking action on the environment, with an overwhelming 98% saying they have measures in place to drive environmental improvements on their farms.
The latest Farm Forward Barometer – part of an ongoing research programme commissioned by McDonald’s UK and conducted by the National Farm Research Unit – found 62% of farmers also plan further green investments in 2019. It found farmers’ current priorities are improving soil management (84%), preserving the countryside (84%) and better water management (70%).
Asked why the environment is such a focus, farmers are driven first and foremost by a sense of personal responsibility with more than half (53%) saying they believe improving environmental standards is the right thing to do. In comparison, a third (31%) say they are responding to increased customer demand for sustainably sourced products and only 7% say that government moves to link subsidies to environmental improvements like planting meadows and protecting wildlife are among the main reasons they think change is important.
Suffolk-based Elveden Estate farm manager Andrew Francis is a potato supplier to McDonald’s UK. “I strongly believe we should grow food responsibly and consider how to make environmental improvements. For example, we take action to preserve habitats for rare species by managing field corners and headlands to enhance habitat, and monitor inputs like fertiliser to produce our crop as efficiently as possible. As an industry, we need to take a cross sector approach to evaluate our impact and address concerns together,”he said.
The research also highlights many challenges farmers face when it comes to driving environmental standards. 79% cite high production costs, 68% say it is difficult to find viable alternative farming methods and 60% say they struggle to raise funds to make improvements. A further 40% say they cannot get access to the right skills, advice and expertise.
Technology could be part of the solution. For example, 94% of farmers say they are keeping tabs on soil testing equipment like moisture and organic matter sensors to help with soil health, while 87% are interested in satellite technology and 78% in self-driving tractors which can help to apply nutrients and harvest fields more accurately.
McDonald’s UK agriculture manager, Pete Garbutt, said: “This research shows the huge strides farmers are making to protect the world around us. They believe that good food can also be sustainable and are committed to making this a reality.
“We want to use our scale for good, to minimise our impact on the environment and help the farmers who supply us to do the same. We’ve done this over many years, from working with the beef industry to reduce carbon emissions, to planting trees across the farms that supply our free-range eggs.
“The findings of this research bring to light a number of environmental challenges, which we will work on with our suppliers and experts to consider how we can help farmers tackle these critical issues.”