NFU responds to Defra measures it says will mitigate rising on-farm costs

30 March 2022

NFU President Minette Batters

The NFU has responded to a number of Defra announcements on key issues affecting British farmers and growers, particularly the rising cost and tightening availability of fertiliser.

Responding to this announcement, NFU President Minette Batters said: “Farmers are experiencing unprecedented costs when buying fertiliser, alongside tightening supplies, and it’s critical that government put in place measures to mitigate some of these effects.

“Many of the measures today, particularly around the industry-led regulation of urea, and the updated guidance on the Farming Rules for Water which will allow autumn manure spreading, and the extension of Defra’s Market Monitoring Group to understand trends in the market, are positive for farmers. This is what the NFU has been asking for and I’d like to thank government for making these changes.

“We will look at the guidance closely and we are continuing to engage with government on the importance of fertiliser and about ways it can ensure stability and confidence in the food supply chain.”

Regarding further information about the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Mrs Batters said: “We support the move to a rolling application window as this will offer flexibility to farmers and growers to apply at a time that suits their business. This also needs to be matched by certainty over when agreements will start once an application has been submitted.

“While the offer available now will be suitable for some farms, it’s clear there are still not viable options for all. It’s essential for all farmers who wish to enter these new schemes that payment rates properly recognise the public goods they will be delivering. With such huge uncertainty I remain extremely concerned that farmers in England are facing a very different approach to the rest of the UK. With farmers in England receiving less direct support, the government must ensure new ways of farmers and growers managing their risk and volatility.”

Responding to the new guidance for Farming Rules for Water, NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “Today’s announcement provides much needed clarity for farmers and growers who have had significant concerns for some time about how the Farming Rules for Water regulations are being interpreted.

“Over the past year the NFU has played an important role bringing together the farming industry, Environment Agency and Defra to agree that organic manures can be spread in the autumn, so crops are receiving the vital nutrients they require. This new guidance will enable farm businesses to plan with confidence and importantly, drive improvements that benefit soil and plant health as well as water quality.”

Defra has also announced that there will be a farming industry self-regulation approach to the use of solid urea fertilisers. Mr Bradshaw added: “Working alongside other farming organisations, such as AIC, we put forward a strong case to Defra for a robust and pragmatic industry-led approach, without which would have meant a ban on the use of solid urea fertilisers.

“Spiralling input costs are impacting on all farmers and growers with nitrogen fertiliser now costing almost five times as much as it did this time last year and so we are pleased that Defra has agreed to our calls for a delay to the roll-out by a year until 2023 due to current market conditions.

“Through the involvement of Red Tractor, the industry has avoided the proposed outright ban on urea fertiliser which means that farmers and growers will continue to have the flexibility to use the right product at the right time.

“Today’s announcement means farmers and growers can keep using a vital product, to help grow sustainable climate-friendly food, while at the same time significantly cutting ammonia emissions in line with government and industry ambitions.”