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Farming Rules for Water - Clarification of Rule 1

Last updated: 30 Aug 2019

Cows grazing near St Benets Abbey_9825

Following the introduction of the Farming Rules for Water, there was some uncertainty among farmers about the implications of the first rule on specific organic manures and the timing of spreading.

The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations, more commonly known as the Farming rules for water’ were introduced April 2nd 2018. The rules were put in place to fulfil obligations on diffuse pollution under the Water Framework Directive.

This regulation contains eight rules, which have mostly been straight forward to understand and enforce by the Environment Agency. However the 1st rule has led to some confusion around the way it should be interpreted. The guidance around this rule was stated as below:

Rule 1 – Application of organic manures and manufactured fertiliser

Rule 1a) Application of organic manures and manufactured fertilisers to *cultivated agricultural land must be nutrient management planned to meet soil and crop nutrient needs without exceeding these levels and assessed for significant risk of pollution in advance

b) Nutrient Management Planning must take into account the results of testing for Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, pH and Nitrogen levels in the soil, which must be done at least every 5 years.

Following some questions over what this rule meant for different organic manures and timings of spreading the NFU urged the EA to provide more clarity around this rule so that farmers can have confidence in their spreading practice.

The EA have responded with the following note around the rule which states

  • Farming rules for water do not impose a ban on the application of any organic manure or manufactured fertiliser.
  • The nutrient needs of each farm and field can be different in terms of what is required, and when, to meet crop and soil needs. What the farmer needs to know is that anything beyond that, or applications that pose a significant risk of pollution are likely to represent breaches of rules 1-5 of the Farming rules for water.
  • When assessing compliance Environment Agency officers will consider organic manure and manufactured fertiliser applications, and their planning, on a field by field basis.

Where to go for further information

The NFU took the questions of our members to the EA and urged them to provide greater clarity around rule one so farmers could have confidence in what they do. The Agency responded with a clarification note that said:

  • Farming rules for water do not impose a ban on the application of any organic manure or manufactured fertiliser
  • The nutrient needs of each farm and field can be different in terms of what is required, and when, to meet crop and soil needs. What the farmer needs to know is that anything beyond that, or applications that pose a significant risk of pollution are likely to represent breaches of rules 1-5 of the Farming rules for water
  • When assessing compliance Environment Agency officers will consider organic manure and manufactured fertiliser applications, and their planning, on a field by field basis