Due to the requirements of the European Commission, the state government had to decide on a new version of the regulation on special requirements for fertilization in North Rhine-Westphalia. The new state fertilizer ordinance will be published on November 30, 2022 and will come into force on December 1, 2022. The Land Fertilizer Ordinance specifies the nitrate-polluted (so-called “red areas”) and eutrophic areas in North Rhine-Westphalia and specifies additional and different requirements for these areas. The legal basis for this is the Federal Fertilizer Ordinance.
Specifically, the new version means:
The extent of agricultural land in North Rhine-Westphalia classified as contaminated with nitrate will increase from around 165,000 hectares to over 500,000 hectares from December 1, 2022. That is around a third of the agricultural area in North Rhine-Westphalia. As a result, more local farmers are faced with stricter fertilization requirements. A key requirement is that fertilizer requirements in these areas must be reduced by around 20 percent. This can lead to losses in the amount of yield and the quality of the harvest.
The new regional setting and the affected field block areas can be accessed from December 1, 2022 at https://www.elwasweb.nrw.de or for individual farms via the fertilizer portal of the Chamber of Agriculture at www.duengeportal-nrw.de.
After extensive negotiations between the federal government and the EU Commission, a new procedure for designating nitrate-polluted and eutrophic areas was agreed. The result was published in the Federal Gazette on August 16, 2022 as a general administrative regulation for designating nitrate-polluted and eutrophic areas (AVV GeA). In North Rhine-Westphalia, the area designation was carried out by the State Office for Nature and Consumer Protection on behalf of the state government.
Federal Fertilizer Ordinance apply
The specifications of the Federal Fertilizer Ordinance continue to apply unchanged: These include a reduction in fertilization to 80 percent of the determined fertilizer requirement, the limitation of organic fertilization to 170 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare and year on each individual area instead of the farm average, an additional restriction of autumn fertilization or the obligation for growing catch crops. The country-specific additional requirements, obligation to analyze your own manure and regular training, do not change either.
The nitrate pollution of the groundwater has decreased slightly in all of the measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia in recent years. But there are still areas in which the nitrate limit values in the groundwater are exceeded and there is a need for further action.
Discussions with the federal government at the autumn conference of agricultural ministers
At the autumn conference of agricultural ministers in September, the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Agriculture, together with other federal states, asked the federal government, under its leadership, to immediately develop a concept for the polluter-pays exemption of agricultural holdings from obligations in red areas and to report in writing by the end of November 2022. This requires the amendment of the Fertilizer Act, Fertilizer Ordinance, Material Flow Balance Ordinance and reporting obligations for companies. Starting points for exceptions are above all:
Businesses with low nitrogen surpluses, proven by the permissible balance value for nitrogen of the material flow balance regulation, which is still to be amended, and flanking current operational documents and businesses with a low nitrogen emission risk, proven taking into account exact management data.
Identification measuring network is to be expanded
There are around 1,300 measuring points in the designation measuring network, which are used for the area designation. The measuring network will be expanded to enable more precise area differentiation in the future and thus relieve farmers if there is no verifiable nitrate pollution.