Dairy Woman of the Year for 2019, Trish Rankin, says sustainable practices and picking the best team have helped her become a better farmer.
A: Achieving economic, social, and environmental performance in today’s dynamic business climate requires a sustainability strategy that is executed with discipline year after year. This starts with farmers reducing their emissions, preserving agricultural soils, and ensuring the welfare of farm animals, which are the areas where they are the ones that have the most opportunity to make the biggest impact. Within our farm operations, protecting the health and safety of any employees and managing our farming operations to reduce our environmental impact are key priorities. Together, these actions establish us as trusted partners to both the communities we serve and the customers we supply.
Q: How does our purpose and vision strengthen our commitment to sustainability?
A: As the world’s population rapidly grows towards 10 billion people by 2050, feeding that population in a sustainable way is a challenge and opportunity for our industry. Our purpose is to deliver “farm-focused solutions to sustainably feed our world” and our vision is to be a “trusted partner to both the communities we serve and the customers we supply”. Together, these statements reinforce our commitment to innovation and the evolution of agriculture solutions to help us produce more with less environmental impact. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need to share our values around sustainability which will allow us to protect and grow the global food supply. Living our purpose will help us promote our industry as one that creates an environment allows innovation and creativity in production whilst still addressing the most pressing environmental challenges.
Q: How has COVID-19 shaped our thinking on sustainability?
A: Farmers are central to our economy, and that’s never been clearer than during the pandemic. Farmers around the world have been united in their shared commitment to protecting each other’s health and safety whilst also maintaining the world’s security of food supply to help in preventing the global health crisis from becoming a global hunger crisis. The pandemic has underlined the important role agriculture plays in society and the role that farmers play as employers, manufacturers and as important members of our communities. Farmers have a large role to play in sustainability, and their sustainability strategies will be the launch pad for focused creativity and innovation leading to the security of food supply in the years to come.
Q: Where does agriculture have the greatest opportunity to reduce the impacts of climate change?
A: Fundamentally, agriculture can be a tremendous force for good when it comes to climate change. Agricultural soils play a crucial role in both food security and climate change. Globally, soils can sequester a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere if paired with the right farming solutions and practices. By developing the products and solutions for reducing global carbon emissions farmers are doing their part to mitigate climate change and to advance agriculture through sustainable best practice options. Urbanisation Fifty five percent of the world’s population currently lives in cities and this number is expected to keep growing to 68% by 2050. Concomitant with the increasing urbanisation is an increasing risk of labour shortages in rural areas.
Changing consumer preferences
Consumers continue to seek transparency in food production. Alongside this increasing demand for transparency there has also been a move throughout the developed world, to a much greater use of plant protein as opposed to the current levels of animal protein.
Increasing focus on animal welfare
As human standards of living rise around the globe, driving demand for animal protein, so do concerns about animal welfare and how to find more sustainable and productive ways to raise healthy animals.
Land is simultaneously a source and a sink of CO₂. Land degradation in agriculture systems can be addressed through sustainable land management, with an ecological and socioeconomic focus, with co-benefits for climate change adaptation. Climate-related risks pose a threat to economies around the world. Extreme events— fires, freezes, floods, high winds—are occurring with unprecedented frequency and already reshaping the world’s socioeconomic outlook.
Identifying what matters most
Our success depends on understanding and responding to the changing world in which we operate. We need to identify the environmental, social, economic and governance issues that are perceived as being most important to our stakeholders to establish a broad view of current sustainability issues.
Many of our stakeholders have promoted a shift towards greater environmental efficiencies in the agricultural sectors, and accordingly regulatory requirements for greenhouse gas emissions, fuel use and resource efficiency will intensify in the future. Climate risk is expected to have a significant impact on agriculture, as increased severe weather events will affect farmer livelihood and food security.
Additionally, stakeholders mentioned the transition towards sustainable farming practices to reduce environmental impact.
The agricultural industries should focus on research and development partnerships to keep pace with innovation so that digital technology can be leveraged to help guarantee food security.
In the farming scenario, arguably the person who is in the most appropriate position to determine what their best practicable option is has to be the farmer.
Andy Loader is co-chairman of Primary Land Users Group (P.L.U.G)