The rules for spreading organic manure are being queried as farmers face breaking the law.

The Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Neil Parish MP, has asked the Environment Agency (EA) to review its interpretation of rules on the spreading of organic manure by farmers this autumn.

Farming groups have raised concern that, under the EA's current interpretation of the rules, farmers who want to apply organic fertiliser in the autumn for a spring crop are required to inform the EA that they have broken the law.

However, the Chair of the Committee said that farmers were understandably reluctant to say that they had broken rules because a responsible application of organic manure in autumn was a well-established part of good soil management.

This approach, Mr Parish said, ensures nitrogen applied in the autumn was available to crops in the spring, since applying organic manure in the spring will destroy the crop.

Moreover, he said, if farmers are prevented from using organic fertilizer, they would likely use inorganic products instead, which have a higher carbon footprint - and this would counter the government’s carbon net zero ambitions.

While the committee supports the EA's aim of reducing agricultural pollution, it is concerned that the current intepretation of the regulations was disproportionate - it penalises farmers who follow the rules while not doing enough to stop bad practice by those who do not.

Mr Parish asked for a clear, updated interpretation of the rules.

Given the urgent need to spread fertiliser this autumn, he asked for a reply from the EA by Friday, October 29.