Data collected on local farms for carbon footprinting will not be used against farmers, the chief executive of the NI Dairy Council has said.

Speaking at a breakfast event before the Winter Fair last week, Ian Stevenson acknowledged that concerns about carbon footprinting “causes quite a bit of angst amongst farmers”.

“It’s about trying to meet our legal obligations. It’s not about gathering data to use against farmers in any way,” he said.

New programme

In response to climate change legislation for NI requiring “carbon audits” to be conducted on farms, representatives from various industry bodies and DAERA are developing a new programme.

Carbon benchmarking will initially be rolled out on quality assured farms, but will eventually be extended to all NI farms, and participation will be a requirement for claiming the new area-based Farm Sustainability Payment.

Stevenson was clear that, aside from legal obligations, credible information about the carbon footprint of NI produce was needed for local agri-food companies to remain competitive in international markets.

“This data is about evidencing what you do, about trying to engage in markets and about trying to make sure we have preference in the marketplace,” he stated at the NI Institute of Agricultural Science (NIIAS) event.

The Dairy Council chief said carbon benchmarking should also help the NI agriculture sector reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet climate targets.

“We don’t want to get to a point as an industry where we have to face into reductions in livestock numbers. This is already being talked about in other parts of the world, not too far from here,” he warned.


At the end of his presentation, Stevenson reminded NIIAS members that farm profitability remains critically important, even though environmental issues tend to dominate discussions among scientists and industry representatives at present.

“The most important data point on any farm is the bottom line. One of the key challenges going forward is how to make sure farms are both profitable and sustainable,” he said.