The NFU has expressed concern about proposed new EU rules on cadmium limits in phosphate fertilisers which could bump up prices for farmers.
Last week, the European Parliament and national EU Governments reached a provisional agreement which will cap the amount of cadmium allowed in fertilisers at 60mg/kg.
Originally, the Commission proposed reducing the cadmium limit from 60mg/kg to 40mg/kg after three years and 20mg/kg after 12 years, but these further cuts have now been scrapped.
Farming groups reacted with anger to the earlier plans, which would have made the UK more reliant on Russia for its phosphate.
Cadmium levels there are naturally lower than those in north and west African countries, which currently provide 70 per cent of the EU’s phosphate.
MEPs claimed the rule changes would be justified because cadmium causes cancer, pollutes water and threatens soil health, but limits elsewhere in the developed world range from 100mg/kg – 400mg/kg.
NFU combinable crops board chairman Tom Bradshaw said: “The NFU has always said a maximum cadmium level of 80mg/kg would effectively reduce the concentration of cadmium in soils, while maintaining a competitive market supply.
“The EU’s decision to cap levels at 60mg/kg is concerning for British farmers as it will undoubtedly restrict this market.
“However, it is reassuring that proposals to lower the limit further have been scrapped and that farmers will still have access to phosphate fertiliser from north Africa.
“As fertilisers can comprise as much as 45 per cent of farm input costs, it is important that farmers continue to have access to a range of suppliers to avoid a further cost increase, and to remain competitive in a global marketplace.”
The new rules, which still need to be formally approved by MEPs and the member states, will come into force three years after they are introduced.