New Fertilizer Ordinance Comes Into Force

In order to reduce the nitrate content in groundwater, stricter regulations on fertilisation have been in force since 1 May. Parts of the regulation, such as the designation of “red areas” and stricter rules for these areas, do not have to be implemented until 1 January 2021. Organic farmers are struggling with the new regulation.

After the European Court of Justice ruled that Germany must tighten up its fertilization requirements in order to implement the EC Nitrate Directive, the new fertilization regulation has been in force since 1 May 2020. This is intended to improve nutrient efficiency in the soil and reduce the nitrate content in polluted parts of groundwater.

However, parts of the regulation do not have to be implemented until 1 January 2021, subject to approval by the EU Commission. This is the more differentiated designation of “red areas” as well as the application of more extensive requirements for fertilization on these areas.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture intends to provide financial support to farmers in implementing the new regulations. According to the ministry, the focus will be on the promotion of investments in storage, application technology and processing of liquid manure within the framework of a new federal programme.

“Polluter pays principle is ignored”

The organic sector is critical of the new regulation, as Peter Röhrig, Managing Director of the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW), comments: “We have been pressing for years for effective fertilizer rules and for the polluter-pays principle to be enforced. Anyone who pollutes water with nitrate must change his production.

Those who keep water clean must be supported. An effective fertilizer law must prevent water pollution and support water conservationists”. What causes the nitrate problem and where the fertilizer law must be applied is scientifically proven: too many animals on too little land and too much artificial fertilizer.

Now the organic farmers are hindered by extra rules. Organic farms are already following the strictest law for agriculture: the EU Organic Regulation. The organic law ensures that only as many animals are put on the land as the soil can tolerate. Purely organic fertilization is also prescribed. Over-fertilization with artificial fertilizers is therefore excluded.