LATEST LOVEWELL BLAKE/NFU FARMERS’ EVENING HEARS HOW TREES AND WOODLANDS BENEFIT FARM BUSINESSES
Farming and forestry can be successfully combined within a farming business, despite sometimes being seen as mutually exclusive, with agro-forestry providing both short-term benefits for individual farm businesses and longer-term mitigation against climate change
That was the message heard by around 60 Norfolk and Suffolk farmers at the latest joint NFU/Lovewell Blake Farmers’ Evening in Halesworth.
Fe Morris from the Forestry Commission and Esther Rosewarne from the Woodland Trust made the case for farms to create new woodland, and to better manage existing woodland on their farms.
“It is important to say that this is not about asking farmers to take good quality agricultural land out of food production – food security is increasingly important,” Fe Morris told the meeting.
“But we also have to face the reality that we are looking at a climate crisis; the science is unequivocal, we can’t just carry on with business as usual. Trees and woodland mitigate against climate change, and are at the centre of climate change policy and strategy, all over the world.”
Ms Morris outlined the clear benefits to farmers of having trees on their land, from protecting livestock to maintaining arable yields.
“Trees and woodland provide shade and shelter for livestock, and protection from increasing severe weather events. For arable set-ups, they protect against erosion and desiccation, and prevent loss of soil from agricultural land. They also reduce the damage done by strong winds, which can reduce crop yields and lead to lower profit.
“There is a recognition that woodland creation benefits both the short-term farm scale and the longer-term wider environment,” she added. “These benefits are set to become more significant - and more lucrative – with the rise of the Natural Capital market.”
These benefits mean that the combination of farming and forestry is a hot topic, according to Esther Rosewarne.
“Agro-forestry is having a bit of a moment,” she told the meeting. “It is not about taking land out of production; it’s about balancing productivity with environmental protection.”
Ms Rosewarne outlined a number of schemes to incentivise farmers to plant trees, including an initiative to encourage the replacement of individual trees which are not in a woodland setting.
“If you farm or you are a landowner, you can apply for 50 or 100 native broadleaf trees from The Woodland Trust every year. We have helped people to plant over 100,000 trees across Suffolk and Essex so far through this scheme, and will do another 50,000 this year.”
She said that introducing more trees to farmland – as well as managing existing woodland, with a study suggesting that just 7% of woodland on farms is currently in good condition – is about taking a holistic view.
“It’s about looking at the land in three dimensions, and seeing all of the benefits of trees, both in terms of immediate value to the farm business, and the longer-term role of mitigating the effects of climate change.”
Lovewell Blake agricultural partner Ryan Lincoln, who chaired the event, said, “It is important not to see initiatives to create farm woodland as something which goes against what most farmers want to do, which is to produce food. Investing in one should not be seen as to the detriment of the other; there is a clear benefit to be had in both business and environmental terms.”
The event was one of a series of regular Farmers’ Evenings in Halesworth organised jointly by Suffolk Coastal NFU and chartered accountants Lovewell Blake. Details of forthcoming events will be posted at www.lovewell-blake.co.uk/events.