Documents considered by the Committee on 13 December 2017 Contents

6Marketing of fertilisers

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; scrutiny waiver granted; further information requested

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation laying down rules for the making available on the market of EC marked fertiliser products

Legal base

Article 114 TFEU; Ordinary Legislative Procedure; QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(37625), 7396/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 157

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

6.1Fertilisers may only circulate freely in the internal market if they comply with a set of conditions relating to agronomic efficacy, nutrient content, packaging, identification and traceability. Such products receive the designation “EC fertiliser”.

6.2At the moment, virtually all product types carrying the “EC fertiliser” designation are conventional inorganic fertilisers, whilst virtually all those produced from organic materials or recycled bio-waste are excluded, notwithstanding the contribution which they could make to the so-called “circular economy” by generating value from secondary, domestically sourced resources.

6.3The Commission accordingly proposed a new Regulation establishing conditions with which all EC marked fertiliser products—including those made from recycled or organic materials—would have to comply in order to move freely on the internal market.

6.4When the previous Committee last considered this proposal, at its meeting of 25 April 2017, it waived the scrutiny reserve in advance of possible agreement while Parliament was dissolved. Ultimately, agreement did not prove possible at that stage.

6.5The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) has now written again, noting that agreement in Council is imminent and that negotiations with the European Parliament are likely to start shortly. He explains that the outstanding issue is cadmium limits in phosphate fertilisers. The Government is working with other Member States to find an acceptable compromise. He asks the Committee to release the proposal from scrutiny to enable the Government to fully defend UK interests.

6.6We note the progress made and that negotiations could conclude quickly. The proposal remains under scrutiny but we are content to waive the scrutiny reserve to enable the Government to defend UK interests. We look forward to information as soon as possible on the final agreement, particularly on cadmium limits.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation laying down rules for the making available on the market of EC marked fertiliser products: (37625), 7396/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 157.

Background

6.7The main instrument setting out EU rules applicable to fertilisers23 is Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003, which provides for the designation of “EC fertiliser” to be applied to products which comply with the conditions laid down in Annex I governing their agronomic efficacy and nutrient content. The Commission proposes to replace that Regulation with a new set of rules allowing organic fertilisers to be included. Further details on the background to, and content of, the proposal were set out in the Report of 4 May 2016.24

6.8At its meeting of 4 May 2016, the previous Committee noted the Government’s support for the proposal but retained it under scrutiny awaiting the Government’s detailed assessment. The Committee subsequently engaged in correspondence with the Government around particular concerns regarding the setting of limits on cadmium content. The Government was concerned that the proposed cadmium limits would significantly restrict the supply of phosphate rock, which is used in the production of fertiliser. A limit was being sought that would mitigate the potential risks of cadmium deposited in soils from fertilisers, without setting them so low that the burden on consumers, farmers and manufacturers becomes excessive.

6.9In a letter of 19 April 2017, the Minister explained that good progress had been made in Council discussions. His view remained that the legislation was, overall, a good regulation that would create a level playing field for organic and organo-mineral fertilisers, promote innovation, and protect national security by improving the safety of ammonium nitrate fertilisers within the EU.

6.10A number of improvements to the text had been secured in negotiations, including a tightening of the limits on macroscopic plastic impurities in digestates and composts to bring the requirements closer in line to UK standards. There were still a few issues to be finalised, including cadmium limits and the frequency of detonation resistance testing for ammonium nitrate fertilisers.

6.11Noting that the Presidency was seeking to agree a text before the end of June, the previous Committee waived the scrutiny reserve. It asked the Minister to provide a further update on developments in both the Council and the European Parliament.

The Minister’s letter of 29 November 2017

6.12On progress of discussions within the European Parliament, as requested by the Committee, the Minister notes that the proposal has had opinions adopted by all relevant European Parliament Committees.

6.13The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee suggested tightening limits for certain contaminants and pathogens. It also, with regards to cadmium content limits in phosphate fertilisers, suggested bringing forward the date from which the 20 mg/kg limit would apply (nine years after application of the Regulation instead of twelve).

6.14The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development proposed to add a greater focus on products improving the nutrition efficiency of plants, alongside creating better conditions for innovative fertilising products.

6.15The Committee on International Trade proposed that the Commission had not focused enough on the potentially negative impact of tight cadmium limits on the market and on trade relations between countries. It suggested that more should be done to evaluate the impact of this regulation on the market as it is applied.

6.16The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) amendments focused on reducing the administrative burden for economic operators, tightening quality requirements for specific fertilising products and requiring the Commission to report back on the functioning of the internal market for fertilising products.

6.17On 24 October, the European Parliament voted to approve the draft text with amendments by 343 votes to 252, with 59 abstentions. The proposal was referred back to the IMCO committee, but allowing inter-institutional “trilogue” negotiations with the Council and the Commission to begin.

6.18The issue still holding the proposal back is compromise on the cadmium limits in phosphate fertilisers. Positions on this are split within the European Parliament, reports the Minister, despite it voting narrowly in favour of the strict limits proposed but with longer implementation time periods. The Council is also divided, says the Minister, although there have been numerous proposed compromises which are finding support among Member States. The UK is working closely with colleagues in other Member States to find an acceptable compromise in the Council.

6.19The Minister asks that the Committee considers releasing the proposal from scrutiny to enable the Government to fully defend UK interests, since the Presidency is keen to push the proposal forwards, and matters could move quickly into “trilogue” and the final negotiations.

Previous Committee Reports

Fortieth Report HC 71–xxxvii (2016–17), chapter 13 (25 April 2017); Thirty-second Report HC 342–xxxi (2015–16), chapter 4 (4 May 2016).


23 In addition to conventional fertilisers providing plant nutrients, this term includes such products as soil improvers, liming material and potting compost.

24 Thirty-second Report HC 342–xxxi (2015–16), chapter 4 (4 May 2016).




15 December 2017