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Is Anaerobic Digestion Creating More Problems than it Solves?

17 July 2013

UK - The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has raised concerns over the rapid expansion in the number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants using agricultural crops as feedstocks.

The association says it understands the need to develop renewable energy technologies, but does not agree with using land solely to produce food for fuel, adding land rents are being driven up because of it.

TFA National Vice Chairman Stephen Wyrill said: "It is a major concern that a significant number of existing and proposed AD plants have identified maize and/or grass silage as appropriate feedstocks. Whilst the TFA understands the rationale for using slurry combined with other waste products such as green waste and food waste, it does not see the justification for using land specifically to grow crops as feedstocks for AD plants.

"Not only does this appear to undermine the perceived carbon reduction benefits of AD, it also adds significantly to the burden on the agricultural industry given the strong competition that already exists for access to agricultural land.

“In areas with significant AD capacity we have seen land rents reach unsustainable levels as competition for land to grow maize for AD plants has intensified. Farmers looking for land to grow feed for livestock are left having either to look further afield at significantly higher cost, or go without access to sufficient ground for their production needs causing them to have to buy in feed again at very high prices,” said Mr Wyrill.

“The TFA is also concerned over the concentration of AD plants created in a relatively small areas. The West Midlands is a case in point. The concentration of AD plants in that area is reaching untenable levels particularly where those plants are reliant upon growing crops as feedstocks. It is essential when considering applications for new AD plants to take into consideration the extent to which an area is already serviced by AD plants which will be competing for feedstocks in the local area amongst themselves already,” added Mr Wyrill.

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