Nature-friendly farming pays, according to a newly-released report. The report, ‘Farming at the sweet spot-how farming can make you happier, healthier, and wealthier,’ found that sustainable farming can generate an increase in ROI of 10-45% for farmers.
Data from 165 farm business accounts was analysed by sector to show how more sustainable farming practices could increase profits, reduce reliance on inputs, and restore nature.
Potential commercial returns from 9.5% for lowland arable farms to 32.7% for dairy farms, 39.1% for upland livestock, and 45.3% for lowland livestock were shown to be possible.
This is significant for farmers who’ve faced unprecedented financial challenges in recent times as a result of Brexit, the war in Ukraine, high inflation, and rising fuel and energy costs.
Add to that the fact that the reduction in bps payments is really starting to bite and you have a situation where profits are being impossibly squeezed.
Maximising output isn’t the answer
The answer to farmers’ financial woes, better agricultural sustainability, and better food security says the report, is working with nature, not against it, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels, artificial fertilisers, and animal feed.
For many years, the focus for farmers has been on maximising output to make more money. But it’s not always as simple as that when there are challenges to navigate like difficult economic conditions and the weather. Intensive farming to increase output has had a detrimental impact on the environment too. As the climate catastrophe worsens, there must be a focus on sustainable farming that works for farmers and nature.
Government policy is focused on sustainable farming
Another reason for farmers to focus on sustainability is that government policy is increasingly focusing on more resilient farming and nature restoration. The Sustainable Farming Incentive’s (SFI) expanded offer will start accepting applications from August.
The incentive is part of the post-Brexit support system, where farmers receive payments that support food production while protecting the environment.
As well as payments for actions related to soil health and moorland, farmers can now also be paid for actions on hedgerows, integrated pest management, nutrient management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips, and low input grassland.
Farmers could get anything from £10 per 100m to maintain or establish hedgerow trees to £129 per hectare for growing multi-species cover crops.
Adopting sustainable farming practices is a chance for farmers to not only reduce the environmental impact of farming to benefit nature and wildlife, but also to benefit financially in a period where profit margins are under pressure.
‘Farming at the sweet spot – how farming with nature can make you happier, healthier and wealthier’ Nethergill Associates, Nature Friendly Farming Network, and The Wildlife Trusts