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Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 76872, tabled on 17 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the benefits to soil health of banning the use of ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser; and what steps he is taking to promote the improvement of soil health with farmers.

Answered on

23 November 2021

Although we have not made any recent assessments on the benefits to soil health of banning mineral based fertilisers the Nutrient Management Expert Group (NMEG) is independently reviewing and analysing existing policy, alongside up-to-date technical and scientific evidence on fertilisers and nutrient management. It is considering the multiple challenges surrounding nutrient management (reaching Net Zero by 2050, protecting and enhancing soil health, improving water and air quality, protecting natural biodiversity and managing resources sustainably) and developing recommendations on the optimal policy approaches to minimise nitrogen-based and other pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from fertiliser use.  The Group is engaging with sector sounding boards, including industry representatives and other key stakeholders, to ensure its recommendations have practical merit.

The findings and recommendations of NMEG will be published in the new year. They will feed into our review of fertiliser regulation and inform wider Defra policy development and delivery plans.

The Government is developing a Soil Health Action Plan for England. It will look at how land management practices and planning can be adapted to help protect soil from the impact of climate change, and will deliver a single, strategic and coherent plan for multiple outcomes that prevents soil degradation and improves soil health.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is a key focus of the Action Plan and will support sustainable approaches to farm husbandry that deliver for the environment and improve soil health. For example, SFI will pay farmers for actions they take (going beyond regulatory requirements) to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way. Actions will be grouped into simple packages set out as standards, to make it as easy as possible for farmers to identify the actions that are best suited to their land and their business.

Two of the standards that are being piloted in the SFI are the Improved Grassland Soils Standard and the Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard. These standards focus on soil management and health and will also be available under the early roll out of the SFI from 2022.

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