Farming Futures faces uncertain future
A PROJECT set up to help farmers tackle the effects of climate change is facing closure unless it can secure industry funding.
Farming Futures faces an uncertain future, after Defra revealed it is withdrawing its funding for the project after March 2011 in light of current spending restraints.
The Department has provided over £850,000 in funding for the initiative over the past four years but turned down a request for a further three years of funding.
“Given the funding cuts, they said ‘no’ and they not going to finance it any more,” Will Frazer, Farming Futures’ research information officer said.
Mr Frazer said Farming Futures had spoken to the project’s industry partners, which include the NFU, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), about whether they would be willing to take on the financial responsibility, which amounts to about £285,000 a year.
“Farming Futures was first set up to stimulate the industry to work together on this issue and I hope the industry will now take it on and finance it themselves,” Mr Frazer said.
Launched in 2007, Farming Futures was set up to build greater awareness and provide advice to farmers on the impacts of climate change and what they can do to deal with it.
Mr Frazer said it was performing a vital communication role and had gone from strength to strength over the past 18 months as farmers have become increasingly interested in renewable energy, due in part to incentives like the Renewable Heat Incentive and Feed-in Tariffs.
After ‘very little uptake’ in the early years, he said there was now ‘huge interest, with meetings typically being attended by around 80 farmers and investment decisions often being taken ‘on the spot’. A recent event saw a new solar power installation showcased at a packed event at Michael Eavis’ Worthy Farm, the site of the Glastonbury Festival.
A Defra spokesperson said: “Defra funding for Farming Futures was a substantial, time-limited contribution to allow them to establish themselves in playing a central role in supporting the industry’s action on climate change, whilst they sought alternative long-term funding.”
CLA president William Worsley said: “There is a thirst for information about new technologies and new business opportunities and Farming Futures caters for this, so it is disappointing that the project’s funding is set to be stopped.”
A CLA spokesman said it was ‘too early’ to comment on the possibility of CLA funding the project in future.
Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change, said: “Farming Futures has been particularly successful over the past 12 months but it requires long-term strategic funding rather than the stop-gap budgets that have characterised its past two years.”
Defra Secreatary Caroline Spelman this week outlined the importance of climate change and the industry’s role in helping Ministers meet its target of building ‘the greenest government ever’.
Speaking at the Environment Agency conference, she said: “The farming industry is working hard to meet those challenges.
“Agriculture is also on of the front line when it comes to the effects of climate change which makes it even more important farmers adapt.”