Embracing the drive for climate-friendly farming

Richard Findlay

Richard Findlay

NFU Livestock Board chair

First published: 12 November 2022

Richard Findlay walking through fields on his hill farm with sheep and dry-stone walls in the background

Writing for the Yorkshire Post newspaper, Richard Findlay reflects on growing global demand for Britain's climate-friendly meat, while the NFU delegation to COP27 demonstrates how British farmers are already key players in the drive to net zero.

The UN climate change conference, COP27, is underway in Egypt this week, bringing together heads of state, academics and a host of organisations and businesses from around the world to discuss and negotiate measures to tackle climate change. COP27 aims to become the moment when the world moves from negotiation to implementation and where words are translated into actions.

There is much more of a focus on farming and food security this time, compared to last year’s conference in Glasgow, so I’m delighted to see our part of the world being very ably represented by young farmer, James Johnson, who has joined the NFU delegation for a second year.

I know James is keen to share with delegates the regenerative measures his family has implemented on their farm near Ripon with the goal of reducing their carbon footprint and making their farm business ever more sustainable and resilient to the changing weather patterns we see in Yorkshire.

James’ story is typical of so many farms in Britain - we have a lot to shout about. As a country we have really embraced the drive to produce our food as sustainably as possible. Of course, every farm is different, but across the board we are seeing farmers grappling with the complexities of carbon calculations, doing more to improve soil health, boost carbon storage through grassland management and tree planting, generate more renewable energy, embrace new technology to improve productivity and so much more.

"As a country we have really embraced the drive to produce our food as sustainably as possible. Of course, every farm is different, but across the board we are seeing farmers grappling with the complexities of carbon calculations, doing more to improve soil health, boost carbon storage through grassland management and tree planting, generate more renewable energy, embrace new technology to improve productivity and so much more."

Richard Findlay, livestock board chair

An opportunity to build new trading links

Our drive to achieve net zero as an industry by 2040 is focusing people’s minds to make sure that we are part of the solution to climate change, and this is boosting our reputation as food producers around the world. Post Brexit, we have the opportunity to build new trading links and while some recent trade agreements – most notably with Australia and New Zealand - do represent a threat to British farmers, other nations are keen to secure our produce and present us with real opportunities.

For livestock farmers, embracing these opportunities will be vital to our sustainability plans, as exports help us ensure that every bit of an animal is used. That’s why in the NFU’s red meat export strategy, we call for greater government promotion of Brand Britain to allow exporters to capitalise on market opportunities across the world.

High quality and fully traceable lamb

The quality and sustainability of our meat will undoubtedly drive our export success, as illustrated with the resumed exports of British lamb to the United States. Our production systems are very different to those in America with grass at the heart of everything we do. The result is high quality and fully traceable lamb – something the high-end retailers in America really want.

Vital role for livestock

As a Yorkshire hill farmer, it is great to see this endorsement of our climate-friendly farming. Cattle and sheep play a vital role in managing our extensive upland areas and our rich pastures that are so important for carbon sequestration. They are also at the heart of our rural economy, supporting an array of local businesses from vets and feed merchants to machinery dealers. And of course, they also help ensure that our world-famous landscapes continue to attract millions of visitors every year.

British farmers are already acting in response to climate change and that will certainly be our message in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Read more on NFUonline

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