Emissions toolkit pitched as permitting alternative receives positive government response

A farmer-friendly toolkit that assesses the ammonia emissions risk on a farm received a positive response from the Government when announced at the RABDF Business and Policy Conference today (2 Dec).

The tool kit developed by dairy farmer and RABDF Chairman Peter Alvis, with support from others in the industry, allows farmers to input basic data relating to housing type and management, slurry storage and spreading.

It was developed in response to the Government’s plan to introduce permitting for dairy and intensive beef farms by 2025, with concerns permits based on headage or output may not be the most effective and fair approach.

Mr Alvis said: “Larger farms may produce more total emissions, however emissions per animal, kg or litre of output may be lower. Permits based on a headage or output basis may not achieve the desired requirement to reduce ammonia emissions. ”

Mr Alvis believes using a risk-based approach would be a more accurate way to assess the emissions risk. It would evaluate each farm based on size, the farming systems and practices used, and create a score for the farm, highlighting the emissions risk.

He added: “By using a risk -based tool, a farmer would be able to see the effect adapting or changing practices would have on their emissions risk. They could then adopt the most appropriate and cost effective risk reduction technique for their farm.

Although the tool kit is still in development, it is hoped to be released next year.

Kathryn Morley from Defra said the menu-based approach in the tool kit was an ‘interesting idea’. “The reduction in emissions needed is quite substantial, so most farms will have to do everything they can to reduce emissions.”

Targets set by the Government to reduce ammonia emissions by 49kt by 2030 are unlikely to be hit, with Ms Morley admitting she was unsure whether it was even possible to reach that target.

“We acknowledge not everyone will be able to afford the change,” she said.

John Allen from Kite Consulting agreed with her comment and warned the permitting of farms would cause ‘a big restructuring of the dairy industry between 2023 and 2025’.

He said: “Farmers are losing BPS and will have to find money to invest to meet emission reduction targets. It is quite realistic some farmers will face a 3p/ litre cost to meet targets; this is a lot when the average profitability is only 2.5-3p/litre.

“For those farms that have got the generational issue sorted, they may stay and invest, but farmers are going to have to work out which side of the fence they sit on going forward,” he said.

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