Dairy Road Map outlines target for greenhouse gas cut

DAIRY farmers have been set a target of improving greenhouse gas balance 20 to 30 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.

The target is part of a Milk Road Map published today (Friday, May 2) that sets out short, medium and long-term environmental targets for the entire milk supply chain over the next 12 years.

The Road Map was drawn up by a working group chaired by Dairy UK. It included representatives from Defra and organisations representing farmers and allied sectors, processors, retailers and consumers – all under the umbrella of the Dairy Supply Chain Forum.

The targets for dairy farmers include increased participation in agri-environment schemes, greater use of renewable energy, including anaerobic digestion, reduced water usage and higher levels of recycling. There are also targets to reduce nitrogen run-off and improve manure management.

But the overarching target is the 20 to 30 per cent reduction in the greenhouse gas balance, which takes account emissions debits and credits from farms.

While debits include emissions from manures, livestock, energy usage and transport, credits can include the generation of renewable energy and reduction in emissions from enhanced energy and feed efficiency. This methodology enables farmers to reduce their overall emissions balance, while maintaining the flexibility to increase the size of their herd.

Processors have also been set targets that include a requirement for half of all plastic milk bottles to be recycled and significant reductions in water usage by 2020. Dairy UK said the recycling pledge alone would save 60,000 tonnes of virgin plastic each year, equivalent to 1.5 billion bottles.

NFU dairy board chairman Gwyn Jones said the union had worked closely with Defra to ensure targets were ‘realistic, achievable and in no way compromised the economic viability of dairy farming'.

“Profitability is the cornerstone of dairy farmers' ability to improve the environment and the Milk Roadmap is about improving environmental performance, without compromising productivity,” he said.

“We want the Roadmap to address the sector's environmental challenges, but we firmly believe that our offering represents as far as the industry can go, without threatening economic viability.”

He said the dairy industry had already come a long way in reducing its environmental impact, for example reducing methane emissions by 13.5 per cent since 1990 and reducing nitrogen application by 46 per cent over the past decade.

Dairy UK director general Jim Begg described the Road Map as a ‘step change in the way we produce, process and consume liquid milk'.

“I am proud of the measures that our industry has committed itself to, and proud that we are the first sector to draw up one of these ground-breaking Road Maps. We are laying down a benchmark for other products to emulate,” he said.

The initiative was due to be launched today by Food and Farming Minister Jeff Rooker on a Herefordshire dairy farm.

“The dairy industry has acted responsibly in the past to cut its environmental impact, and this Road Map provides a major new tool to achieve that,” he said.

An initial Road Map working document, circulated by Defra last autumn, provoked controversy when it suggested a move towards 90 per cent UHT milk by 2020 to cut down on refrigeration, alongside a 60 per cent cut in farm methane emissions.

A Dairy UK spokesman described those proposals as ‘aberrations that Defra quickly backed away from' when the industry made its opposition clear.

Environmental targets

Dairy farmers
By 2010
* 50 per cent of farmland entered into
Environmental Stewardship (ES).
* 5-15 per cent reduction in water use.
* 30 farms piloting anaerobic digestion.
* 95 per cent of farmers to have a manure management plan.
* 95 per cent to have farm health plans

By 2015
* 65 per cent of farmland entered into ES.
* 90 per cent of farmers actively nutrient planning to prevent nutrient run off.
* 20-30 per cent of producers trialling new technologies and techniques, for example to improve slurry and manure management.
* Encouragement to calculate carbon footprint.

By 2020
* Farmers to recycle or reuse 70 per cent of
non-natural waste.
* 40 per cent of energy used on farm to come from renewable sources.
* A 20-30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas balance from farms, compared with 1990 levels.

Processors and retailers
By 2015
* 10 per cent of processors' non-transport energy to come from renewable sources or Combined Heat and Power.
* Three centralised anaerobic digesters at processing sites.
* Almost no waste to be sent to landfill by dairies.

By 2020
* 60 per cent reduction in water use per tonne of finished product. 30 per cent absolute reduction of water use for large processors.
* Half of all plastic milk bottles to be recycled into new milk bottles.
* All tertiary packaging to be recyclable or re-usable.
n Processor water and energy consumption to be lower in absolute terms.
* New retail stores to emit less carbon than new build stores in 2006.

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