Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

MEPs veto plan to increase slurry usage on farms

Slurry spreading
Slurry spreading

Sarah Collins

A bid to increase the use of slurry as a fertiliser in ares with high nitrogen pollution has been ruled out by a committee of MEPs.

The move came during a parliamentary committee vote to amend draft EU fertiliser rules which aim to boost the use of organic fertilisers.

Over 6,800 Irish grassland farmers already have an opt-out from EU rules that limit slurry spreading to 170kg of nitrogen per hectare per year, allowing them to spread up to 250kg per hectare. The rule change would have made the opt-out automatic.

The MEPs also voted through stricter limits on the presence of cadmium, a naturally occurring but toxic heavy metal found in phosphate-based fertilisers. The measure was passed by MEPs in Parliament's internal market committee last week.

The rules have yet to be agreed with EU governments, who are likely to have concerns over trade and rising costs for the fertiliser industry.

The EU is highly dependent on imports of phosphate rock - around 90pc is imported, largely from Morocco - to produce its fertilisers.

But the only country that will be able to comply with the stricter cadmium limits is Russia, where the substance is present in lower levels.

The cadmium limits - which MEPs want to lower from 60 mg/kg of phosphorus to 20 mg/kg after nine years - go further than the Commission's 2016 draft law, which had proposed they be phased over 12 years.

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A report prepared for Parliament's agriculture committee this week said that higher cadmium limits would affect small fertiliser producers, but should have a negligible effect on individual farms.

Irish farmers spend the most in the EU on fertilisers (as a percentage of total costs), at 20pc, and are among the top users of phosphorus-based fertilisers in the bloc.


MEPs have asked the Commission to assess the impact of the cadmium limits on the trade in raw materials and the fertiliser products market three years after the rules take hold.

Less than 10pc of fertilisers used in the EU are organic. To get a CE fertiliser marking, organic producers have to comply with differing national rules that make it difficult to sell across the bloc.

The European Commission says there is scope to increase the use of organic fertilisers, or those made from recycled materials such as sewage sludge or biodegradable waste, to 30pc.

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