Environmental markets pose a potential source of income for farmers and growers and exploring opportunities to engage with them will be critical for food production and environmental outcomes.
On 1 November, the NFU hosted an innovative ‘Environmental opportunities for agriculture’ workshop at its London office to explore the opportunities for farmers and growers to engage in environmental markets from a farming, policy, and financial perspective.
The event brought together representatives from many key stakeholder organisations that shape the development of these markets. These included farmers, farmer clusters, investors, financial institutions, project developers and policymakers.
“This multi-stakeholder event was the first conversation of its kind and we hope this can act as a springboard for further discussions for the long-term benefit of the farming community.”
Collaboration is crucial
NFU President Minette Batters opened the event with an address that highlighted the importance of defining new markets ‘on our own terms’.
She explained that engaging collaboratively in the development of environmental markets will be critical to finding solutions for delivering food production and environmental outcomes in a way supported by both public and private financial funds.
NFU chief economic adviser Rohit Kaushish provided a useful and concise outline of the NFU’s activity on environmental markets so far and offered greater clarity on what it means for farmers and growers.
He explained that market development and investment will have an effect on future generations of farmers and producers, so it is important to get this right.
As a result, the NFU has carefully designed its ‘5 Key Environmental Market Principles’.
Balancing the opportunities and challenges
Based on these principles, the workshop was divided into a series of focussed sessions.
Identifying the opportunity: This allowed participants to reflect on what constitutes a viable opportunity for investment and development.
Financing the opportunity: Following on from this clarification of suitable opportunities, the workshop moved on to discuss mechanisms for getting new and alternative markets off the ground and ensuring that any market development is sustainable.
The role of government policy: Important to this workshop was recognition that government needs to be involved for any environmental markets to develop successfully. Participants explored how public policy initiatives can support emerging markets and inspire confidence.
The top three opportunities and challenges: Bringing together the insights of the preceding sessions, the workshop evaluated the opportunities to seize and the most pressing challenges for agricultural businesses and investors.
Following each session, there was a collaborative feedback process in which ideas were exchanged on how farmers and growers can best engage with the environmental markets. If structured correctly, investment through such markets presents an opportunity to support long-term resilience in the businesses and natural systems that underpin British food production.
Bringing the event to a close, Minette reflected that the workshop had been a great success and paid tribute to the willingness of all stakeholders to begin to work together on an area that can be complex.
She recognised that, if structured correctly, the potential benefit to farmers, growers, and agri-food businesses of engaging with environmental markets could
be significant and that the incentives for industry-based collaboration had never been stronger.