Morrisons creates ‘tree advisor’ team to help farmers meet nature goals

Supermarket Morrisons has employed ‘tree advisors’ within its agriculture team to provide farmers with support, in the same week that the UK Government has been accused of “totally failing” to meet its tree-planting targets.

Morrisons creates ‘tree advisor’ team to help farmers meet nature goals

Image: Morrisons

Morrisons’ team of tree advisors will provide advice to British farmers across the supermarket’s own-brand supply chains on tree planting and management, as the business works towards a net-zero carbon farming network in the UK by 2030.

The advisors will help farmers to apply for government funding and grants to deliver their tree schemes and to generate income from them in the coming years, as the UK transitions away from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and phases in its own payment schemes for farmers. They will also be able to advise farmers on which trees to plant and where,  and how best to manage their trees, in order to maximise the environmental benefits while retaining or improving productivity.

Natural England and the Forestry Commission are partnering with Morrisons on the tree advisor scheme, to ensure that advice provided is credible.

Morrisons’ head of agriculture Sophie Throup said: “As British farming’s biggest customer, we have a responsibility to help our farmers overcome the challenges of working more sustainably. Many farmers, while recognising the value of trees in their landscape, are worried that tree planting initiatives will mean that valuable land is taken from food production – even when funded by the Government. We want to take this worry away and help farmers identify what trees work for them on their farm, in the right places and for the right reasons.”

‘Total policy failure’

The announcement from Morrisons came shortly after the Confederation of Forest Industrues (Confor) published an analysis of official tree-planting figures for the UK.

The trade body claims that there were less than 14,000 hectares of new woodland planted in Britain for the year to 31 March 2022 – 75% of which was planted in Scotland. The UK Government’s target is annual planting of 30,000 hectares each year by 2024.

Confor has stated that there is “zero chance” of the 2024 target being met due to “woeful” progress on the ground since it was first outlined in 2019.

The trade body is urging the UK to provide more support for the delivery of the targets, to key factions including the forestry industry, agriculture industry and local authorities. It has emphasised that there is a “very healthy demand” for woodland creation for the sector, which is forecasting increased demands as timber becomes a more popular housebuilding material. Demand is also growing for the creation of woodlands for non-commercial purposes; a separate piece of research from The Guardian and the Inkcap Journal this week revealed that 43 UK councils are now running rewilding schemes.

Monday afternoon (20 June) saw MPs and members of the Lords questioning Lord Zac Goldsmith and Environment Minister George Eustice about the UK’s progress on tree planting and its wider plans for protecting and restoring biodiversity on land. The UK’s own environmental watchdog concluded last month that policymakers are failing to deliver the national Government’s pledge to leave nature in a better state for the next generation.

The duo were also asked about the UK’s preparation for the final part of the UN’s COP15, at which an international agreement to protect and restore biodiversity will be ratified. Full documents relating to the meeting in Parliament will be uploaded here. It was confirmed by the UN this morning (21 June) that the summit has been moved from Kunming, China, to Montreal, Canada, in an effort to avoid further Covid-19-related delays.

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