Monday, 26 September 2016

The Future Of Agriculture In Wales

Members of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee (National Assembly For Wales) want to know what people's ideas are about the future support for agriculture, land management and rural communities in Wales. You can post your ideas and rate/comment on those posted by others at this site. More information here.

Some of our favourite points and comments:

Rewilding landscapes to save communities

"Rewilding is a positive, pro-active view of conservation that involves returning a suite of species to landscapes to restore the ecological processes that once occurred there. Rewilding has gathered huge followings in North America (Yellowstone for example), southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It has even some examples in the UK (Scottish beaver trial, Knapdale, Alladale, etc).
There are a suite of reasonably innocuous species that could easily be restored to our rural landscapes - things like beavers, pine marten, dormice, etc. There are others that would be more challenging - lynx or wolves. All of these species require adequate habitat - largely woodland - so substantial reforestation would be necessary, which has associated carbon storage and biodiversity benefits.
Rewilding also offers new opportunities to save rural communities. With the removal of subsidies for many agricultural practices, upland farming seems unlikely to survive. Analyses in South Africa showed that ecotourism yielded 4 times the profit and employed 5 times more people than low productive pastoralism. These communities could turn to ecotourism to remain economically viable.
Why the contribution is important
Rewilding could solve the economic crisis of rural communties by offering alternative livelihoods to those currently available (and heavily reliant upon subsidies). Rewilding also offers opportunities to improve the status of biodiversity throughout Wales."

"Rewilding is good, but requires restricting human expansion to protect areas. I think we _should_ restrict human expansion, but the Welsh and UK Governments encourage road building, increased housing (often unnecessary) etc, while doing nothing about population growth. Urban areas just keep growing. Rewilding policies should run hand in hand with reducing human impact. The Governments should really switch tactics to protecting and end encouraging wildlife, not setting ridiculous high house-building targets which end destroying greenfield sites 99% of the time. Anyway, I support this in principle."

[Actually, the one below was our favourite, since it covers so many important issues and had some really good ideas.]

Focus on land, human and animal health

Outcomes from policies
  • should promote sustainable, long-term biodiversity of the environment
  • should focus on human health and animal welfare, not profits
  • should focus on activities that do not contribute to adverse climate change
  • should not provide funding for practices that damage the environment or human health or contribute to climate change (meat and dairy industries)
Lessons to learn/ policies
  • to base new policies on environmental science
  • to base new policies on health recommendation
Areas to focus on: climate change, land, human health, animal health, Wellbeing of Future Generations

Why the contribution is important

Climate Change – reason why need to reduce funding for animal farming
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization highlights the large amount of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. To seriously limit climate change we need to reduce livestock numbers. Produce more GHG than transport (2006 report, and update in 2013.)
Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute) report ‘Changing climate: changing diets’ recommends reducing meat consumption: “Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the ‘danger level’ of two degrees Celsius, the main goal of the climate negotiations in Paris.” The report notes that governments must lead this through behavioural change and policies. “Our research found a general belief across cultures and continents that it is the role of government to spearhead efforts to address unsustainable consumption of meat. Governments overestimate the risk of public backlash and their inaction signals to publics that the issue is unimportant or undeserving of concern.”
Oxford Martin School research found adoption of vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63% and make people healthier too.
The Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain project produced research reports detailing what can be done to get Britain’s carbon emissions down. They looked at land and diet and recommended changes including double forest area, grow own biomass fuel, grow more of UK’s food supply, more biodiversity, more protected areas and reduce meat diet to replace with plant based foods.

  • Land use should be organic
  • Forestry – should avoid clearcutting - instead using sensitive coppicing, only removing a % of the trees. Ideally replace with native trees too, not just non-native cash crops.
  • Policy to create X amount of new woodland in Wales every year.
  • Divest money from animal farming to plant and tree agriculture. Upland areas to be used more extensively for tree crops. Diversify for fruit and tree species (once sheep are no longer grazing, land will regenerate); wood crops for the wood;
  • Consider alternative land uses eg green burial sites in every county where trees and bushes are planted on the graves instead of sterile headstones, so new woods are created whilst saving resources. See article about one local authority.
  • Protect current green spaces, whether agricultural or not, from development and housing; new housing should only be on existing and brownfield sites;
  • Increase local requirements for council allotments so that people can grow more of their own produce.
  • Allow some areas to become ‘re-wilding’ projects, particularly on uplands.
  • Farm for wildlife – more hedgerows, protect species of plants and animals etc.

Human health – reasons for reducing livestock production
  • Reduce meat and dairy consumption in line with recent UK guidelines
Meat is extremely bad for health (cancers, cholesterol, diabetes etc) and most health organisations now recommend reducing meat, and particularly processed meats, to only one small portion a day. See Harvard research, and UK NHS recommendations to reduce to maximum of 70g a day – this is half of a cooked breakfast of two typical British sausages and two rashers of bacon which is equivalent to 130g of meat. Higher intakes of meat and dairy produce is also as dangerous to human health as smoking, the Guardian reported a longitudinal study. In addition, the UK’s healthy eating guide ‘Eatwell Guide’ has recently been revised to reduce the importance of meat and dairy, to promote the importance of beans and other plant forms of protein both in terms of health and sustainability and to increase prominence of fruit and vegetable intake.

Animal health
  • Prioritise animal welfare – terrible cruelty of factory farming, inhumane conditions, diseases spread etc.
  • Stockfree (ie no livestock) organic land management would be better approach – see Stockfree Organic Standards
  • Limit sizes of farm livestock holdings in factory farms and ban ‘zero grazing’ and ‘mega farms’.
  • Ban live exports.
Wellbeing of Future Generations Act
  • Reduction of animal livestock is essential for human health and the health of the planet.
  • Need to think long term, needs of future generations is health, land, environment, water etc.

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