Minister Poots launches carbon initiative on dairy farms

A new initiative to help tackle carbon emissions within the dairy sector has been launched by Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA.

By Edwin Poots MLA

Lagan Valley

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The voluntary programme of carbon benchmarks on Business Development Group (BDG) dairy farms will start in 2022.

Minister Poots said: “I am delighted to announce that a dairy carbon audits programme has been established in conjunction with the dairy companies, led by the Dairy Council Northern Ireland and CAFRE.

"From next year BDG dairy farmers in Northern Ireland can take part in the programme which will enhance our understanding of carbon emissions within the sector and how to reduce them.”

Minister Poots said the carbon audits align with the Green Growth Strategy which DAERA is progressing on behalf of the Executive.

Green Growth means using the move from a high to a low greenhouse gas emissions society to improve people’s quality of life through green jobs and a clean, resilient environment. And that is exactly what we intend to do. The consultation period on the draft strategy remains open until 21 December 2021 and I would encourage everyone to take part.

“This new carbon benchmarks programme is an excellent example of collaborative working and I commend the Dairy Council and CAFRE for it. I would strongly encourage all eligible dairy farmers to get involved in the programme and together we can, we will and we must make the changes necessary for a greener future,” added Minister Poots.

CEO of the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, Dr Mike Johnston, joined the Minister and thanked him for launching the programme, which will be open initially to all members of CAFRE’s Business Development Groups who financially benchmark, with data collection provided by AI Services Support Assistants.

“This is an important industry initiative to better understand the source and extent of emissions on dairy farms. There are a number of reasons why these carbon audits need to happen. First, if we are to reduce our carbon footprint we need to measure emissions. Second, our customers are asking for information on the level of emissions and what measures are being taken to reduce these. And third, we need baseline data to provide proof as to the sustainability of family run dairy farms in Northern Ireland,” explained Dr Johnston.

“I would emphasise that this is an industry initiative, and although voluntary, I would encourage all members of BDGs to participate. I can assure all dairy farmers that the information collected about their farm will be confidential and will not be available to the Dairy Council, DAERA or dairy processors.

“We are grateful for the help and support of CAFRE for this programme, and the opportunity it will provide to develop a better understanding of emissions and possible mitigation measures through the activities of BDGs. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of this programme in generating data that will be of great benefit, not only to individual farming businesses, but also for the industry as a whole as we work to continue to develop sales of Northern Ireland dairy products.”

Ulster Farmer Union deputy president David Brown said: “The UFU welcome the further roll out of carbon audits on farms. There are already many farms across NI undertaking this work through various initiatives and it is positive to see the dairy industry now committing to carbon audits. This will be vital to help the industry understand the baselines and drive improvements in our efforts to mitigate climate change. We would encourage every farmer who is offered the opportunity to take up the offer to learn more about their farm’s carbon footprint.”

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