Governmental policies and measures regulating nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure in European Agriculture

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This paper discusses governmental policies and measures that regulate the use of animal manure in the European Union (EU-15). Systematic intervention by governments with European agriculture in general started at the end of the 19th century. Major changes in governmental policies on agriculture followed after the establishment of the EU and its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 1957. Environmental side effects of the large-scale intensification of agricultural production were addressed following the reform of the CAP and the implementation of various environmental regulations and directives from the beginning of the 1990s. The Nitrate Directive approved in 1991 has exerted, as yet, the strongest influence on intensive livestock production systems. This directive regulates the use of N in agriculture, especially through its mandatory measures to designate areas vulnerable to nitrate leaching and to establish action programs and codes of good agricultural practice for these areas. These measures have to ensure that for each farm the amount of N applied via livestock manure shall not exceed 170 kg•ha–1•yr–1. These measures have large consequences, especially for countries with intensive animal agriculture, including The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Ireland. The mean livestock density in these countries is between 1.5 and 4 livestock units/ha, and the average amounts of N in animal manure range from 100 to 300 kg/ha of agricultural land. More than 10 yr after approval of the Nitrate Directive, there appears to be a delay in the implementation and enforcement in many member states, which reflects in part the major complications that arise from this directive for intensive livestock farming. It also reflects the fact that environmental policies in agriculture have economic consequences. The slow progress in the enforcement of environmental legislations in agriculture combined with the increasing public awareness of food safety, animal welfare, and landscape maintenance call for a more fundamental change in EU agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E196-E206
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number13 suppl.
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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