Red areas: tightening shows how federal and state governments are failing

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Imago images/BildFunkMV

Farmers' demonstration: Farmers are protesting against the upcoming massive expansion of the red areas in Germany, here in Schwerin at the end of January. Above all, the farmers demand reliability from politicians.

Simon Michel-Berger, agrarheute

On Thursday, February 24th, 2022 – 05:00

The Federal Ministry for the Environment has sent a draft for the new regulation of the red areas to the EU Commission as part of the fertilizer ordinance. Neither the federal government nor the federal states consider it necessary to talk to the farmers about what to expect. Why actually? A comment.
There is hardly an issue that concerns farmers in Germany as much as the design of the fertilizer ordinance. All farms are affected, from conventional arable farmers to organic livestock farmers. Some are more, others less, but the situation leaves no one completely cold. The saga of announced tightening has been going on for years, and yet the farmers still have no idea what is ultimately in store for them. The question of the concrete designation of the "red" areas contaminated with nitrate is still open.

Federal government secrecy on red areas


Sven Stolzenwald

A commentary by agrarheute editor-in-chief Simon Michel-Berger.
On Tuesday of this week, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture announced that the department, together with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, had sent a proposal for the new design of the rules for defining red areas to the EU Commission. It is clear that the area of the red areas will increase from 0.7 million ha to 2.7 million ha. The ministries do not want to reveal any further details. Only the Federal Ministry of Agriculture states succinctly: “The infringement proceedings are subject to strict confidentiality. Therefore, we cannot make public the draft sent to the EU or data for individual federal states.”
Cem Özdemir does not fulfill his role as advocate for farmers

Why the federal states also fail in red areas

However, Cem Özdemir is not the only one who fails here. Irrespective of the political color, all the agriculture ministers of the federal states are just as guilty. Because the proposal for the new regulation of the red areas, which recently went to Brussels, is also in the hands of all state ministries of agriculture. But not a single department considers it necessary to give farmers even a little more information or even something like planning security.

Scorn instead of constructive dialogue

From the federal states, only partially held up, it is said that the farmers themselves are to blame for the fact that the designation of the red areas is being tightened. Eventually they complained too. The lawsuits – of which only the one in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has been decided so far – have only shown that the current measuring point network is not suitable as a basis for the designation of the red areas.

What is certain about the red areas?

Based on the Federal Government's report to the EU Commission, the following is clear: the designation of red areas based on the polluter pays principle is off the table. In the future, all areas above nitrate-polluted groundwater bodies should automatically be red areas, regardless of the local nitrate pollution. That may reassure the EU Commission, but it unsettles farmers. Because the basis of all decisions about management restrictions remains the dilapidated network of measuring points.

Open dialogue would be the best solution

Instead of bringing all those involved to a round table and discussing what a final solution would look like that would also give the farmers predictability, they remain in a situation of legal uncertainty and are silent on the details of the new regulation. The federal and state governments seem to agree on this approach. The wall of silence holds.

First options for farmers: Endure everything

This leaves only two options for action for farmers: They can either endure everything that the federal government thinks up in the greatest secrecy and is tacitly supported by all federal states. They would have to hope that with this next sip the bitter chalice of the Fertilizer Ordinance will finally be emptied and that the EU Commission will not have the idea of making further demands.

Second option: sue the EU Commission

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