The Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Neil Parish MP, has written a letter to the Environment Agency asking for it to review its interpretation of rules on the spreading of organic manure by farmers this autumn.
The request follows concerns raised by arming groups that, under the Agency’s current interpretation of the rules, farmers who want to apply organic fertiliser in the autumn, for a spring crop, are required to inform the Agency that they have broken the law.
In the letter to the Agency, Mr Parish said that farmers were ‘understandably reluctant’ to say that they had broken rules, pointing out that a responsible application of organic manure in autumn was a well-established part of good soil management as it ensures nitrogen applied in the autumn was available to crops in the spring.
He explained that it is not possible to apply organic manure in the spring because it will destroy the crop, and that preventing farmers from using organic fertilizer would likely result in them using inorganic products instead, which have a higher carbon footprint, countering the government’s carbon net zero ambitions.
The Committee said that whilst it supports the Environment Agency’s aim of reducing agricultural pollution, it is concerned that its current interpretation of the regulations was disproportionate; it penalised farmers who follow the rules while not doing enough to stop bad practice by those who did not.
Mr Parish has therefore asked the Agency to urgently revisit its approach to ensure it does not prevent the responsible application of organic manure in autumn, calling for a reply from the Agency by Friday 29 October. He added the Committee planned to publish the Environment Agency’s response.