Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, has announced that changes to the use of urea fertiliser will be delayed by at least a year.

The delay to their introduction is part of a range of measures announced today (Wednesday, March 30) to assist farmers with fertiliser availability and pricing issues ahead of the coming growing season.

With agricultural commodities closely linked to global gas prices, farmers are currently facing rising costs for inputs including manufactured fertiliser, due to the process depending on gas.

Changes to urea use

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a consultation on three regulatory options to reduce ammonia emissions from urea fertilisers over a year ago.

The results of the consultation will be published today, and the response will include Defra's supprort of a new Red Tractor standard to reduce ammonia emissions from urea fertilisers.

The new Red Tractor standard will allow the use of untreated/unprotected urea fertilisers between January 15 and March 31, and require treated/protected urea fertilisers throughout the rest of the year.

These changes will now be implemented in April 2023, effectively a postponement of one year.

When restrictions are introduced, they will include to the use of ammonia inhibitors rather than a complete ban.

The plan is modelled to achieve around 11kt of ammonia emissions reductions by 2024/25.

Once implemented, the effectiveness of the scheme will be monitored and regulation will be introduced if the scheme does not achieve the ammonia reductions needed.​ The decision will likely be made in 2025/26.

Commenting on the decision to delay the changes, Mark Tufnell, resident of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said:

“We welcome  the news that Defra has accepted the industry’s advice to allow the continued use of urea within an accreditation scheme, audited by Red Tractor.

"This gives farmers a greater degree of choice when purchasing fertiliser."

This measure has also been welcomed by the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

“Through the involvement of Red Tractor, the industry has avoided the proposed outright ban on urea fertiliser which means that farmers and growers will continue to have the flexibility to use the right product at the right time," said NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw.

“Today’s announcement means farmers and growers can keep using a vital product, to help grow sustainable climate-friendly food, while at the same time significantly cutting ammonia emissions in line with government and industry ambitions.”