Red tape victory as soils rules axed

Soil protection rules that would have resulted in additional red tape for farmers have been withdrawn by the European Commission.

The Commission’s draft Soil Framework Directive proposed to introduce additional regulations to assure farmers were protecting the fertility and productivity of Europe’s soils.

The draft had been on hold since 2007 when its progress was blocked by the UK and a coalition of other countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

But commission officials finally agreed to throw the directive out on Thursday (22 May) after considerable lobbying by farming groups, which had dubbed the proposals unworkable.

“From the early stages of the negotiations on the draft Soils Directive the NFU has actively called for these proposals to be thrown out,” said NFU vice-president Guy Smith.

“Our long-held belief has been that there is no need for additional legislation in this area.

“Soils in the UK, and across the EU, are already protected by a range of laws and other measures, including cross-compliance requirements and more targeted measures within agri-environment scheme agreements.”

Mr Smith said farmers had an inherent interest in maintaining the condition of their land and assuring its long-term fertility and productivity, which made the framework redundant.

“We believe these can be supported through carefully targeted advice and information, voluntary action, partnerships and a greater emphasis on monitoring and research, but not another legislative proposal.”

Welcoming the commission’s decision, European farm group Copa-Cogeca said the regulation would have resulted in greater costs than benefits.

“The proposal for a soil directive was not necessarily going to improve soil protection in the EU,” said Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen.

“Its only consequence would have been more bureaucracy for farmers and agri co-operatives.”

Effective EU legislation was already in place to protect the soil, including the new Common Agircultural Policy, as well as in a framework of EU environmental legislation,” he added.

“The soil directive would have just added layers of red tape,” Mr Pesonen said. “There was no need for it.”

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