THE Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is urging local councils to work with farmers over the development of alternative power schemes.
It says that a number of cases have recently come to light when local authorities have assumed there will be agricultural land available to site wind turbines or other green energy technology, regardless of farmers’ plans for the land.
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “We all understand the need to develop alternative means of energy production to ensure our long-term energy security as a nation but we must do so in a way which works positively with the communities who will be affected by the development of new energy schemes.”
He said there had been some cases in East Anglia where prime agricultural land was earmarked for energy schemes, despite opposition from local communities and what he said was a lack of consultation.
Mr Dunn said: “Clearly there is a huge incentive for local authorities to develop renewable energy schemes on the basis of the public subsidy available.
“However, public money should not be used in a way which displaces viable businesses or tramples on the rights of others.”
The TFA stepped in to negotiate on a scheme planned for Norfolk, which Mr Dunn said was now “much improved”.
He added: “We would warn all other local authorities considering the development of renewable energy schemes to do so on a basis of cooperation and not conflict.
“Local authorities need to remember that the homes and businesses of tenant farmers should be respected and to ensure that proper dialogue with farm tenants takes place.”
Meanwhile, the NFU is championing the bioefuels industry and the potential £1bn it can bring into the UK economy.
Delegates met with Transport Secretary Norman Baker this week and also visited the Ensus bioethanol refinery on Teesside.
NFU combinable crops board member Brett Askew said: “Ensus and Vivergo will provide an important domestic market for UK feed wheat, allowing farmers to hedge their sales and reduce the risk of being exposed to highly volatile commodity markets.
“This goes hand-in-hand with the biodiesel industry, which, already worth an estimated £600m at the farm gate, has seen an increase in production of oil seed rape yields of around 25% over the last 11 years, and is a growing market.
“The future of the two industries are linked together in a way that means Government must take them seriously, and that is the point we made to the Secretary of State for Transport when we met with him.”
At the moment, the UK imports 80% of the high protein animal feed used in livestock, pig and poultry production annually. This type of feed is a by-product of biofuel production and is yet another reason why the Government should support the industry, Mr Askew said.
He added: “The biofuel industry can become one of the most important markets for British agriculture. It has the potential for us to become more self-sufficient in high protein animal feed and import less from outside the UK, while providing an important floor in the market for our arable farmers.”