Mailing 16 December 2011

Protecting high nature value hay meadows – by identifying new markets and technologies for making money from hay.

FCRN member request for help and suggestions

Barbara Knowles in Romania is looking for ideas regarding markets for hay as a means of supporting biodiversity rich hay meadows. She writes:

The mountain hay meadows of the Eastern Carpathians of Romania are amongst the most biodiverse in Europe. The success of EU agri-environment subsidies in persuading some farmers to continue to mow their meadows even though they now have fewer animals (an unintended result of EU hygiene policy and competition), means that there is a large surplus of hay in some villages. Something has to be done with this hay, they are not allowed to burn it, it must be removed from the meadow two weeks after cutting, the barns are full.

The aim of this project is to identify markets for this surplus hay, for example hay pellets as animal feed, or as biomass for burning; as winter fodder for wildlife such as deer; as an insulation material etc.

Barbara Knowles and the Pogány-havas Association are looking for ideas and examples of markets for hay. Please contact Barbara or post your reply to this page

You can learn more about their activities here and at www.treasuresoftransylvania.org

Coverage on Durban climate deal

For analysis and commentary on the outcome from Durban, you may want to  have a look at the following links – I’m copying many of them from Carbon Brief’s always useful and interesting daily e-newsletter: see here for more http://www.carbonbrief.org/

There is a lot of analysis in the Guardian (see also here, and here), articles from the BBC, and also the very good The Conversation website.

For NGO views see: GreenpeaceFriends of the Earth and WWF. The Confederation of British Industries comment briefly here while Business Green gives more detailed green business-oriented analysis here.

The full text of the Platform agreement can be found here.

Follow-up: school meals in France

In the mailing on 6 December 2011 I quoted the Telegraph, who reports that “the French government has stated that that all students will have to eat meat if they want lunch at school.” 

A French mailing list member has replied to say that the Telegraph have presented the information in a misleading fashion.  She points to the Act and corresponding information which you can find here and here.

The regulations state that each meal has to include: a main dish, a side dish, a dairy product and either a starter or a dessert. The menu has to vary every day over 20 days. The main meal has to be based on ‘meat, fish, eggs, offal or cheese.’  The number of meals with more than 15g saturated fat or more than 20g sugar per serving are limited over the 20 day cycle. 

She also makes the following comments: “Similar rules have been in place for more than 40 years in France. A vegetarian family would be allowed to make a specific query, as for any family with religious or other specific demand.”

Her point here is that this is not a new regulation, but rather an update of an existing one which affirms the requirement to provide students with balanced school meals, even in a time of budgetary cuts.

Incidentally, I checked out the UK school meal standards and in fact there is no legal obligation to provide vegetarian (or halal, or other) meals. The requirements say “It is up to the school to decide whether this is feasible, although every effort should be made to cater for all pupils' needs. Schools are not required by law to cater for children with special dietary needs but they are encouraged to do so.” See here.

However, my undertstanding is that in practice all schools do provide a vegetarian option and many in certain parts of London provide halal meat.  I’m not sure how far vegan children are specifically catered for – I expect in practice many bring in a packed lunch.

Paper: agriculture and food security

An interesting paper that looks at adaptation and mitigation options for farmers, with a particular focus on smallholders.  It emphasises the need to address not just the science/technological aspecf of mitigation/adaptation but also the social and institutional/knowledge infrastructure.

Reference, abstract and conclusions as follows:

Vermeulen S J, Aggarwal PK, Ainslie A, Angelone C, Campbell B M, Challinor AJ, Hansen J W, Ingram JSI, Jarvis A, Kristjanson P, Lau C, Nelson G C, Thornton P K and Wollenberg E (2012). Options for support to agriculture and food security under climate changeEnvironmental Science and Policy , 15, 136-144  (NB:many of the authors are FCRN mailing list members)

Abstract

Agriculture and food security are key sectors for intervention under climate change. Agricultural production is highly vulnerable even to 2C (low-end) predictions for global mean temperatures in 2100, with major implications for rural poverty and for both rural and urban food security. Agriculture also presents untapped opportunities for mitigation, given the large land area under crops and rangeland, and the additional mitigation potential of aquaculture. This paper presents a summary of current knowledge on options to support farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, in achieving food security through agriculture under climate change. Actions towards adaptation fall into two broad overlapping areas: (1) accelerated adaptation to progressive climate change over decadal time scales, for example integrated packages of technology, agronomy and policy options for farmers and food systems, and (2) better management of agricultural risks associated with increasing climate variability and extreme events, for example improved climate information services and safety nets. Maximization of agriculture's mitigation potential will require investments in technological innovation and agricultural intensification linked to increased efficiency of inputs, and creation of incentives and monitoring systems that are inclusive of smallholder farmers. Food systems faced with climate change need urgent, broad-based action in spite of uncertainties.

Conclusions

Significant uncertainty exists regarding the direction and magnitude of climate change, which in turn leads to uncertainty in the realm of food production and its impact on food systems and food security across complex geographies andsocieties. Food systems faced with climate change need urgent action in spite of uncertainties. The urgency of climate change provides a new impetus for paradigms of integrated research, policy and action. There is a pressing need to invest in databases and tools to inform policy and practice in the spheres of agricultural risk-management, adaptation and mitigation. Likewise, initiatives to develop capacity to tackle climate change impacts on farming and food must address not only scientific capacity but also the capacity of users to demand, interpret and apply scientific outputs effectively. Decision makers need not just a holistic view of the system but rather a strategic approach that focuses on key dependencies and processes. A key challenge in assuring future food security is to apply such approaches across the whole food system and across multi-purpose landscapes. Action will need to move ahead of knowledge, with decisions made and reviewed on the basis of emerging research and consensus. This paper has provided a brief review of the state of knowledge in the key areas of managing climate variability and risks, accelerating adaptation to progressive climate change, and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. We need to integrate and apply the best and most promising approaches, tools and technologies. The involvement of farmers, policy-makers, the private sector and civil society is vital. Successful mitigation and adaptation will entail changes in individual behavior, technology, institutions, agricultural systems and socio-economic systems. These changes cannot be achieved without improving interactions between scientists and decision-makers at all levels of society.

You can download the paper here (subscription needed).

2012 Organic Producers' Conference

18-19th January 2012, Aston University, Birmingham

ORC’s next annual organic producer conference will bring together organic producers and other businesses together with consultants and researchers to explore the latest ideas for improving the technical, business and environmental performance of organic systems.

The conference programme is available here. The sessions cover topics such as: the impact of the CAP on organic producers, agroforesry, biosolids, organic feed regulations, innovation needs for dairying and more.

The ‘early bird’ reduced fees rate applies until 21 December.

Royal Society meeting report: reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

In February/March 2011 the Royal Society held a conference on how GHG emissions from agriculture might be reduced through measures that focus on nitrogen efficiency, methane, and soil carbon sequestration.  A short report has now been produced and can be downloaded here.  You can also download audio recordings of the presentation.

The report draws the following conclusion:

We conclude that in the long term, even with new research outputs and effective translation, the only structural change that could be of a magnitude sufficient to even approach an 80% reduction target in the agricultural sector would be a large reduction of agricultural production in the UK, thus displacing greenhouse gas emissions to other countries. Such an action is not compatible with increasing global demand for food and would be morally irresponsible, economically unrealistic, and would have no global climate benefits as it would result in land elsewhere (undoubtedly less suited to food production) being converted to grain production to meet UK demand. Agriculture in the UK is highly efficient relative to that in most other developed countries, and climate change predictions imply that reliance upon efficient crop production in countries like the UK will increase rather than decrease over the 40 years leading up to the target date. Research has already identified improved crops, livestock and management practices which can decrease greenhouse gas emissions per kg food, but it has the potential to do much more. Combining such biological research with more effective translation of the new knowledge, underpinned by behaviour and economic research, should enable agriculture to make a significant contribution to reducing its greenhouse gas emission footprint, though an 80% reduction while increasing food production will not be feasible.