Farmers in Germany’s most populous state must severely rein in their use of effective fertilizing techniques under a new set of restrictions apparently aimed at making the industry more “green.”
As of Thursday, farmers in North Rhine-Westphalia are required to use 20% less nitrate fertilizer in areas deemed to have “problematic” levels of the chemical – a designator that now encompasses a third of the province’s usable farmland.
The rules appear to be unpopular with some local farmers and political officials. Erich Gussen, vice president of the Rhenish Agricultural Association, warned that the new regulations would mean a lower quality of crop, hinting farmers would not accept the rules without a fight. “There is great indignation among the farmers, which really upsets us!” he told German outlet Bild on Thursday.
“If a wheat field needs 200 kg of fertilizer for optimal yield, farmers would now be forced to use 40 kg less. That means a drop in yield and the quality of the wheat will suffer!” Gussen explained.
The timing of the measure – coming right before Christmas with little advance notice – also seems likely to maximize inconvenience, as efforts to plead for exceptions before the local bureaucracy will be delayed due to vacations and other technicalities.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s minister of agriculture and consumer protection, Silke Gorissen, described the last-minute expansion of the low-nitrate areas as a “step backwards.” Gorissen claimed she had long sought exceptions for constituent farmers who had already proved themselves responsible stewards of the land.
A similar initiative underway in the Netherlands in the last several months has met with a high degree of local resistance. Amsterdam is reportedly seeking to buy out or forcibly shut down as many as 3,000 farms in order to meet EU environmental targets, even though farming advocates in the country claim they have some of the most advanced, sustainable farming techniques known to humanity.
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