The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has revealed serious concerns over the quantity of grass and maize being grown specifically to fuel anaerobic digestion plants.

Competition for land to grow crops for AD plants is now at an all-time high which has led to unsustainable hikes in land rents, according to the TFA.

“Farmers looking for land to grow feed for livestock are left having either to look further afield at significantly higher cost, or go without access to sufficient ground for their production needs. It means many have been forced to buy feed in at very high prices,” said Stephen Wyrill, TFA national vice-chairman.

“Farmers looking for land to grow feed for livestock are left having either to look further afield at significantly higher cost, or go without access to sufficient ground for their production needs. It means many have been forced to buy feed in at very high prices.”
Stephen Wyrill, TFA national vice-chairman

The TFA has also pointed to worries it has over the concentration of AD plants in several areas across the country, including the West Midlands where it says the number of plants is reaching an “untenable level”.

A statement released by the TFA said that, while it understands the need to develop renewable energy technologies using slurry combined with other green waste products, it does not see the justification in using land specifically to grow crops to feed AD plants. This merely adds to the already strong competition for agricultural land, it says.

“It is essential when considering applications for new AD plants that planners consider the extent to which an area is already serviced by AD units competing for feedstocks in the local area,” said Mr Wyrill.

But Charlotte Morton, chief executive of Anerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, said: “Using anaerobic digestion delivers an incredibly flexible fuel in biogas, which can decarbonise difficult areas such as heat, vehicles and the gas grid, and is very efficient in terms of the energy yield per hectare of land.

“Just as importantly, it also supports food production through improved crop rotations and the recycling of nutrients and organic matter, enhancing soil quality and reducing the need for artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

“The story here is therefore not about competition for land – especially when there currently are just six crop-only AD plants in the UK – but about how we can use our land to deliver everything we need from it, and do so in a way which minimises negative environmental impacts here and abroad. Anaerobic digestion, including with crops as a feedstock, is a vital part of the future of climate-smart farming.”

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