NFU fends off a solid urea ban

30 March 2022

Environment
A picture of a farming landscape with a bright blue sky and green crops growing in the fields.

The government’s consultation on reducing ammonia emissions from solid urea fertilisers closed in January 2021. It has now published its response agreeing, for now, with the NFU and other industry partners that a farming industry self-regulation approach will work best for the environment and food production.

The response will include its support for a new Red Tractor standard to reduce ammonia emissions from urea fertilisers. The new standard will require scheme members to restrict use of untreated urea from 15 January to the end of March each year and require treated/protected urea fertilisers throughout the rest of the year.

Postponement

The standard will be published in April 2023 though Red Tractor will not begin to assess whether the new rules are being complied with until October 2023. Defra will review these dates in autumn 2022 after looking at how the fertiliser market is doing.

This is effectively a postponement of one year which allows time to be able to respond to the growing gas and fertilisers supply impacts we’re currently experiencing.

Defra hopes that this will achieve around 11 kilotons of ammonia emissions reductions by 2024/25.

The effectiveness of the scheme will be monitored and regulation will be introduced if the scheme does not achieve the ammonia reductions needed.​

The decision on whether new legislation will be needed will likely be made in 2025/26.

NFU response

The NFU submitted its response to the government consultation and set out the importance of solid urea when it is used alongside other products such as ammonium nitrate.

We also detailed why it is used by farmers as part of a balanced and integrated nutrient management plan.

Growing food while cutting emissions

The NFU believes an industry-regulated approach to the use of solid urea fertiliser will allow farmers in England to keep using this vital product to help grow the nation’s food, while cutting ammonia emissions significantly at the same time.

“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.”
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “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.”

Defra agreed to calls for delay

He went on to say: “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.”

The announcement means farmers and growers can keep using a vital product, to help grow sustainable climate-friendly food. At the same time they will be significantly cutting ammonia emissions in line with government and industry ambitions.

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