THE Environment Agency needs to review its interpretation of rules on the spreading of organic manure by farmers this autumn.

This comes from chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Neil Parish MP, who says farming groups have raised concern 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.

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However, Mr Parish, in a letter to the Agency, said that farmers were understandably reluctant to say that they had broken rules because a responsible application of organic manure in autumn was a well-established part of good soil management.

This approach, Mr Parish said, ensures nitrogen applied in the autumn was available to crops in the spring. It is not possible to apply organic manure in the spring because it will destroy the crop.

Moreover, he explained that, if farmers are prevented from using organic fertilizer, they would likely use inorganic products instead, which have a higher carbon footprint - and this would counter the government’s carbon net zero ambitions.

The Committee supports the Environment Agency’s aim of reducing agricultural pollution but 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.

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He therefore asked the Agency urgently to revisit its approach to ensure it does not prevent the responsible application of organic manure in autumn.

Mr Parish asked for a clear, updated interpretation of the rules. Given the urgent need to spread fertiliser this autumn, he asked for a reply from the Agency by Friday, October 29, and said the Committee planned to publish the Environment Agency’s response.