IN 2021 British farmers, through their representative body the National Farmers Union of England and Wales (NFU), set an ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in agriculture by 2040.
NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said at the time that British farmers were committed to playing their part in the climate challenge, hence the ambitious target, but noticeably he had little to say about how the target would be reached.
He generalised that there needed to be a joint effort from farm businesses, government, stakeholders and the wider supply chain but the closest he came to specifics was the suggestion that there needed to be a vast portfolio of measures and incentives from government to ensure widespread farm involvement.
The obvious basis of Mr Roberts' comment was the formal adoption by the EU in December 2021 of tying common agricultural policy (CAP) payments to EU Green Deal sustainability objectives.
Presumably he was anticipating that Britain would develop something similar in agricultural policy to replace the CAP payments British farmers previously enjoyed as part of the EU.
However Britain has struggled to define such a policy and the EU arrangement, under pressure from disaffected member states, was starting to unravel even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The EU CAP/Green Deal sustainability narrative is now being overshadowed by food security and affordability as runaway food price inflation takes hold.
Against this backdrop of destined-to-fail policy in Europe, policy inertia in Britain and seemingly undeterred by recent developments, Morrisons, one of Britain's big-four supermarkets, has decided to go it alone.
Having already embarked on a program to be directly supplied by net-zero carbon British farms by 2030, Morrisons announced on May 31 its Sustainable Beef and Lamb Scheme.
In Morrisons' own words the scheme will offer livestock premiums, green discounts, subsidised audits and free environmental advice to help and reward farmers for reducing carbon emissions, sourcing greener feeds and putting in place measures to become land and nature positive.
On joining the scheme farmers will be offered:
But what is not clear under the Morrisons scheme is who sets the standards - i.e. the rules and requirements as to what constitutes net zero.
In their announcement, Morrisons say that they hope their new Sustainable Beef and Lamb Scheme will be assessed by Assured Food Standards (Red Tractor) through its environment module announced last year.
However a search of the Red Tractor website found no mention of an environment module.
It may be that this module is under development but that in itself would be a significant shift in focus as Red Tractor is essentially a food-safety and animal welfare standards and accreditation entity.
Red Tractor was established in 2000 by NFU to address damaging, high-profile food scares.
It writes its own standards through a panel of recognised experts and uses external resources to audit accreditation holders against those standards.
Therefore if Britain fails to come up with a CAP-like scheme tying incentive payments to sustainability/net-zero outcomes it will simply cede responsibility for setting the standards to a non-profit company (Red Tractor) and rely on industry participants such as Morrisons to provide market-based incentive.
Morrisons' incentive for getting involved was summed up by their Head of Agriculture, Sophie Throup. She said, "UK agriculture currently accounts for 10 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions and we know our customers want to eat meat that's produced in a sustainable way."
Red Tractor CEO Jim Moseley said, "Sustainability and the environment are increasingly important to consumers so retailers, caterers and brands are responding to this. We relish the opportunity to work with Morrisons, who are proud supporters of British meat, to demonstrate the green credentials of British farmers."
Morrisons is supplied by 2100 beef and lamb farmers. To date over 130 have joined the net zero program and they expect 500 to be on board by the end of this year.
AFTER weeks of grids remaining steady at 780c/kg for 4-tooth ox and 715-720 for heavy cow in south-east Queensland, one major multi-site processor took 20c off on Monday bringing their rates to 760 and 695c/kg respectively. Other operators have yet to move.
Given the steep rises in cost of transport, shipping and energy combined with tougher market conditions in both the US lean-beef trade and the higher-end Asian market, it is not surprising that this adjustment has arrived.
The signal this sends is that some processors may now be at the point of contemplating a rethink of their way forward after a seemingly endless period where the imperative was to keep a workforce together at any cost.
That test will likely come around late August/September after the new-tax-year flush of cattle settles down.
For the moment processors appear to have cattle in front out to the third week of July but some also report they haven't yet got a feel for how deep that run may be.
The only indicator that does appear to be firming is the likelihood that second-round musters will not deliver the volume and quality that came forward in the first round with lateness of season in many parts of the state being the causative factor.
This latest price adjustment means almost $500 has come off ox and cow prices since the market peak back in February.
In the US there are reports of Brazilian product already going into bond storage for release in the new quota year commencing 1 January.
Steiner meanwhile quoted indicator Aust/NZ 90CL at US282c/lb FOB East Coast unchanged on the previous week.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.