National Farmers Union

Farmers claim victory over European soils directive

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Source: National Farmers Union

Proposals for a 'Soils Directive', that would have added significantly to the regulatory burden on farming for no perceptible environmental gain, have been thrown out by the EU Council of Ministers, following a sustained campaign by the NFU.

The crucial vote took place on Thursday, December 20, when France joined the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, to block the Directive, resulting in its rejection.

NFU President, Peter Kendall, warmly welcomed the decision.

'This has been a long, and at times, lonely battle, to bring common-sense to bear and reject a proposal that would have brought nothing to the countryside except yet more unnecessary red tape. We are grateful to Defra and their Brussels negotiating team for having had the courage to ensure that the principles of 'better regulation' are applied in practice, and for leading the opposition to the Directive in the Council.

'Throughout the negotiations the NFU remained deeply concerned about the proposals and constantly and forcefully lobbied for them to be rejected. We were steadfast in our repeated calls to Defra, the European Commission and the European Parliament for the proposals to be thrown out, right up to the eve of the Council meeting when I met with the Portuguese Minister, Francisco Nunes Correia.

'This decision has no adverse consequences for the environment. Soils in Britain, and indeed across the EU, are already protected by a range of laws and regulations, including the requirement under the cross-compliance conditions of the Single Payment scheme for farmers to have soil management plans in place. There is nothing to stop national governments across the EU from introducing their own legislation similar to that which we have in the UK on soil quality and contaminated sites.

'Given the divergence of views by Ministers yesterday, it is hard to see agreement being gained on this in the very near future, but we will be keeping a close watch on how the incoming Presidencies, the Slovenia's and then the French in the second half of next year, intend to handle the dossier.

'We will continue to contest unnecessary, gold-plated regulation wherever we encounter it, and will be doing our level best to ensure that this decision sets a precedent for other examples of regulatory overkill, like the Government's proposals for implementing the Nitrates Directive.'

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