How farming is adapting to new climate requirements - a farmers view

A memory burns in my mind of a recent comedy gig I attended in London. While enjoying the show, I made an unfortunate mistake of making eye contact with the comedian. Before I had any time to develop an escape strategy, I found the spotlight firmly set on myself and the conversation began in a cordial fashion as I said my name and expressed how much I was enjoying the show. The follow up question seemed equally cordial:

Comedian:      So what do you do for a living?

Me:                  I’m a Dairy Farmer

Comedian:      You do realise you’re destroying the planet?

Before I had time to respond the Comedian had followed up with some other comments before moving the spotlight to another unfortunate individual. While this was a single interaction with one individual and can be taken in isolation, I do feel a general lack of appreciation exists for the difficult situation the farming community has found itself in. Most farmers I interact with are focused on finding and implementing solutions in an effort to continually adapt to the climate crisis. This is not as a result of requirements forced upon them but because they see themselves as custodians of the land and want to protect it for future generations.

Reflecting on the topic, some subtle changes have occurred in the last number of years that demonstrate how farmers are willing to adapt. I cannot remember the last time I saw a Slurry Tanker on the road with a splash plate, nor spreading in a field. From my view point most spreading is now completed with LESS (Low Emission Slurry Spreading) equipment. This involves a significant cost to farmers in the form of purchasing new equipment or retrofitting old tankers with a dribble bar.

Similarly I have noticed a big swing from traditional fertiliser to protected Urea. In the last number of years, a majority of farmers I interact with have moved to protected Urea. When asking them on the reasoning for this, the most common answer I received was each farmer felt they had a personal responsibility to play their part in managing the climate crisis.

Grassland Management is another area that farmers have stepped up on in an effort to adapt. Gone are the days when Slurry was seen as a waste product that needed to be spread. It is now seen as a valuable commodity. Several farmers I know measure the nitrogen content in slurry before spreading in order to accurately spread the required units of nitrogen. This naturally has the effect of reducing the chemical fertiliser spread on these farms and is a form of adaption that I have very much seen with my own eyes.

These are only three very small examples of how farmers have adapted their practises in response to the climate crisis but I feel it is the underlying attitude in adapting that deserves some praise. While some, like my comedian friend, view farmers in a very black and white manner as the source of the climate crisis, the truth is a lot more nuanced. I find it hard to imagine that my comedian friend has adapted his life in any way but is more than happy to throw blame at the one community who are genuinely trying to adapt and find solutions. Farmers view themselves as front line soldiers in this battle, ready and willing to adapt, we just need everyone else to come with us.