The future of UK agriculture and on farm AD

Over the next few years the UK will become responsible for funding all agricultural policy measures in the UK as a result of the referendum decision on EU membership. This will require substantial fiscal rebalancing, in 2014 payments funded through the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) amounted to £3.5 billion.[1]

As well as political change, UK agriculture is also affected by climatic change. The Committee on Climate Change’s 2017 Risk Assessment found that “location of the most productive areas of land is therefore likely to shift as the climate changes.”[2] The graphic below shows projected changes to UK agricultural land classification.

Climate change is a growing factor in agriculture’s Gross Value Added (GVA), which according to Defra fell by £1,393 million in 2015, to £8,495 million.[3]

Anaerobic digestion can provide part of the solution to both forms of change coming to agriculture. Government has historically regarded AD as a renewable energy technology and ADBA is working to highlight the non-energy benefits we provide, which helps achieve the following policy objectives:

  • AD reduces emissions from rotting manure and farm wastes and slurries – abating significant amounts of carbon;
  • Supporting farmers by diversifying their income, recycling nutrients back to farmland to support food production;
  • Strengthening the rural economy by creating jobs throughout the UK, with the industry currently employing 3,500 people and having the potential to directly employ a further 15,000; and,
  • Providing baseload, indigenous energy to improve UK energy security;
  • Developing low carbon technology and expertise to export to a global market potential worth £1 trillion.


New policy for on farm AD

ADBA is developing policy proposals to that would recognise the non-energy benefits of AD, help fiscal rebalancing of payment to farmers currently delivered through CAP, and address the declining renewable energy financial support the industry is now facing.

We offer three options:

Renewable biofertiliser credits – If UK support for farmers continues to be contingent on environmental, ecological and sustainability services we believe these should include use of digestate, which returns nutritional content to land and increases soil organic matter. This improvement in soil health would have a huge value to the UK economy, with declines in soil health costing the economy £1.5 bn per year.

Diesel tractor scrappage scheme – The Department for Transport’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) includes support for non-road mobile machinery such as agricultural vehicles. To date no RTFO support has gone to biomethane tractors, primarily because of the tax incentives ‘red diesel’ has. We think use of biomethane as a fuel on farms should have the same tax breaks, this would help decarbonise both transport and agriculture emissions. A scrappage scheme for diesel tractors would support farmers in securing sustainable vehicles.

An agricultural GHG abatement fund – We propose an annual funding initiative, to which applicants would propose potential CO2e abatement and their associated costs of achieving this. Successful applicants would be those providing the greatest carbon cost effectiveness or other sustainability deliverables.


Over the coming months, we will be working with ADBA members and partner organisations to refine our policy proposals so that we are in a position to lobby the new Westminster government and begin to build consensus to support on farm AD for the years to come.

If you have ideas on how to support AD on farms please get in touch.


Interested in on farm AD? Be sure to register for UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017 for the latest insights and industry expertise on AD and the future of UK agriculture.


[1] 68.

[2] 44.

[3] 1.

Posted in: News for Members, Policy updates

Tags: anaerobic digestion, biogas, biomethane, crop operators, renewable financial incentives, digestate, on farm ad, biomethane as a transport fuel, biomethane tractors, biomethane vehicles, RTFO, DfT, Defra, committee on climate change, thom koller