The government has announced measures to help farmers have fertilizer available for the upcoming growing season to address grower uncertainty and reduce costs for farmers.
As agricultural raw materials are closely tied to global gas prices, farmers face rising input costs, including manufactured fertilizers, due to the gas-dependent process.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has announced that changes to the use of urea fertilizers will be delayed for at least a year. The postponement was made to help farmers manage their costs and give them more time to adjust in light of a global rise in gas prices causing pressure on the supply of nitrate fertilizers. ammonium. A consultation on restrictions was launched a year ago, to reduce ammonia pollution in the air. Where restrictions are introduced they will include the use of ammonia inhibitors rather than a complete ban.
To further support farmers, revised and improved regulatory guidelines have been issued on how farmers should limit the use of slurry and other farmyard fertilizers at certain times of the year. This will provide clarity to farmers on how they can use slurry and other manures during fall and winter to meet agronomic needs. This guide will provide more clarity and was developed with farmers and agricultural organizations.
Farmers will be further supported by new subsidies for slurry storage from this year, helping to comply with farming rules for water and reducing dependence on artificial fertilizers by storing organic nutrients until they are are needed or for further processing.
Alongside these measures, further details on the sustainable agriculture incentive were also released today. Given current fertilizer prices, the priority must be to develop new technologies to manufacture more organic-based fertilizer products and to rediscover techniques such as the use of nitrogen-fixing legumes and clovers as alternatives to fertilizers.
The Sustainable Agriculture Incentive will help farmers adopt sustainable farming practices over time, helping farmers build their soil health and fertility and reduce soil erosion, which are essential to a sustainable food production, helping to build food security and the long-term resilience of the sector.
The government will pay farmers to help them with the costs of sowing nitrogen-fixing plants and green manures in their crops or before their crops to substitute part of their fertilizer needs for the coming season and reduce their dependence price-related manufactured fertilizers. gas.
A fertilizer industry roundtable will also be chaired by Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis to continue working on these issues, identify solutions and better understand the impact of current pressures on farmers. The group will meet for the first time this week. In addition, Defra is expanding the membership of its long-standing market watch group, which involves industry expertise to understand market trends.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
The significant increase in the cost of fertilizers reminds us that we must reduce our dependence on gas-dependent manufacturing processes. Many of the challenges we face in agriculture will require a fusion of new technologies with the conventional principles of good agricultural husbandry. The measures we announced today are not the complete solution, but will help farmers manage their nitrogen needs over the coming year.
During the agricultural transition, legacy EU subsidies on land ownership or land tenure are being phased out and replaced by a system that helps farmers invest in their businesses. The Farm Equipment and Technology Fund was recently almost tripled to more than £48million, and last October the government launched the Farm Innovation Program to help farmers and growers boost the R&D. An additional £20.5m of these R&D grants was announced today, which will help fund projects to increase productivity. Projects can include combating a crop pest or disease that affects productivity, or a company can work in partnership with researchers to breed new crop species that are more resilient to climate change.
Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said:
As we welcome today’s announcements, it is important to recognize the scale of the challenges ahead in UK food production.
The exceptionally high price of fertilizers can only be mitigated to some extent by high commodity prices. Some farmers may choose not to apply fertilizer at all this year. But if prices continue to hold at this record high, then the government will need to urgently consider ways to increase and diversify domestic fertilizer production. We hope this will be a focus of the roundtable which DEFRA has rightly convened.
We welcome the news that DEFRA has accepted industry advice to allow the continued use of urea under a certification scheme, audited by Red Tractor. This gives farmers more choice when buying fertilizer.
The announcement of the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive payment rates and additional guidance on the compatibility of the program with countryside management is part of the story for farmers about the impact of the agricultural transition on their own businesses.
Liz Bowles, director of agriculture for the Soil Association, said:
We welcome the Ministers’ commitment to accelerate the reduction of our dependence on artificial nitrogen fertilizers and to invest in soil health.
It is vital that we act differently from our post-war response in the 1940s by prioritizing climate and nature alongside food security. Continued damage to soils, wildlife and climate poses the greatest threat to food security and nature-friendly agroecological agriculture offers the best path to ensuring long-term resilience.
The necessary transition cannot happen overnight, and a step change in funding for farmer-led research and peer-to-peer learning will be essential. This will help farmers gain the confidence to cycle nutrients from livestock or nitrogen-fixing crops like clover in more complex rotations.
We need to expand and accelerate the plans to help farmers work with nature that have been set out in environmental land stewardship programs – and we look forward to hearing more details about the next organic standard and level payments superior to improve soil health.