In October 2022, the consortium formally requested a further delay to the launch of Option 4 for one year or until the fertiliser market returned to a more normalised state.
The NFU maintain that the decision to request a delay in the launch of Option 4 in the autumn last year was right and the most rational decision to make at the time. Six months on, the current market situation and future outlook are different, and no one member of the Industry Consortium or government could have predicted the greatly improved circumstances we now find ourselves in.
That being the case, and following careful consideration and discussions between consortium members, we are more confident that the introduction of Option 4 has been deferred long enough to avoid a significant market impact.
We recognise that farming has a key role to play in reducing ammonia emissions, but if that is at the expense of competitiveness and offshoring production, it is not acceptable.
Enforcement under the Red Tractor Standard will take place on 1 April 2024. From this date, the use of inhibited urea-based fertiliser will be required outside of the open window for uninhibited product from 15 January – 31 March.
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “We have informed Defra that the industry self-regulation approach to the use of uninhibited urea fertiliser under a new Red Tractor standard be enforced from 1 April 2024.
“The NFU and industry partners fought hard for nearly two years to achieve a robust and pragmatic industry-led approach, without this, the clear proposal from DEFRA was an outright ban on the use of uninhibited urea fertilisers.
“Using uninhibited urea saves farmers £13.8 million annually. And its value stretches further when you consider its role in keeping the UK market competitive and minimising nutrient leaching risks associated with early season use of ammonium nitrate.”
The consortium comprise, NFU, AIC | The Agricultural Industries Confederation, AICC | Association of Independent Crop Consultants, BASIS, CLA | Country Land and Business Association, NIAB and Red Tractor.
Businesses found not to be complying with Option 4 by Red Tractor will be required to undertake the BASIS module: Reducing Ammonia Emissions.
The module, which has been funded and developed in collaboration with AIC, AICC, CLA, NIAB, Red Tractor and the NFU, is designed to give farmers the knowledge and tools to reduce ammonia emissions from both manufactured fertilisers and organic materials in livestock housing, storage and when applied to land.
Before the introduction of Option 4 the NFU urges all members to take part in the BASIS module: How to Reduce Ammonia Emissions from Farming which has been developed with the industry. (Note to Editor: BASIS members can complete this as part of their membership, for non-members there are 500 additional free places).
Any industry approach needs to be auditable. This is where Red Tractor were asked to support the industry and deliver value for scheme members by helping demonstrate responsible use of untreated urea fertiliser.
Maintaining access to urea is critical for a competitive fertiliser market and productive, profitable growing systems.
It has been made clear by a Ministerial letter received on 21 March 2023, that the default approach from government was for an outright ban on untreated urea fertiliser. Access to urea fertiliser is crucial, and if the last 18 months have shown anything, it’s that we need diversity in our fertiliser supply.
Tom Bradshaw went on to explain: “With the Government’s Clean Air strategy targeting, among other things, reduction in ammonia emissions, farming must demonstrate we can play our part in reducing emissions while maintaining competitiveness. Demonstrating responsible use of urea fertiliser will show government that we can act responsibly and hopefully open the door to other industry-led solutions.”