Tesco has teamed up with conservation group WWF to launch a new subsidy scheme designed to expand the market for sustainable cattle feed for dairy farmers, the supermarket giant revealed last week.
The scheme offers 15 farmers in Tesco's Sustainable Dairy Group an 80 per cent subsidy to plant herbal leys, a mix of plants, legumes and herbs, which are designed to offer healthy feed for dairy cows while also enriching the soil and boosting water quality, it explained. The feed mix can also help to reduce the carbon footprint of farms, as it does not need as much artificial nitrogen fertiliser to grow, and even captures more carbon than other grasses.
The dairy farmers are then also offered competitive prices for their milk to ensure they have enough money to invest in animal welfare and environmental sustainability, Tesco added.
Tom Atkins, Tesco's agriculture manager, said the new scheme would help support the supermarket's aim to halve the environmental impact of its customers' average shopping basket, by targeting the high carbon emissions associated with the dairy industry.
"We want to ensure we're doing all we can to continue to support our farmers and, in this critical decade for climate and nature, help make our dairy farms some of the most sustainable in the world," said Atkins. "We will continue to work with our farmers to both reduce carbon emissions and continue to increase the amount of biodiversity on farm. We will also be working together on more innovative initiatives like our herbal leys project, which should bring huge benefits in terms of soil health and biodiversity."
The initiative forms part of an ongoing partnership between Tesco and WWF, and the two plan to continue subsidising seed costs for farmers for the next two years, with view to potentially offering more farmers the chance to take part in the scheme in future.
Tesco also said it was also planning further measures to cut farm carbon emissions, improve soil quality, reduce water usage and boost biodiversity. Since 2016 Tesco sustainable Dairy Group farmers have cut their emissions by 6.5 per cent, but the supermarket said it was now targeting a further 10 per cent cut in emissions by 2025.
Among the 15 farmers already involved in the trial are Amie Lovatt and her husband Chris, who run a farm in Cheshire. Lovatt said the couple "jumped at the chance to be included in the trial, as it's important that we all have to find the balance between producing affordable and healthy food and looking after the environment we live in".
"We believe that herbal leys could provide a perfect answer to that as not only will they improve soil health and structure thanks to their deep roots but are also less reliant on artificial fertilisers," she added.