Regulations to ensure pesticides are handled safely must not become over-burdensome to arable farmers, according to DEFRA minister Lord Henley.
Speaking on the tenth anniversary of the Voluntary Initiative, the minister said the scheme had been a major success in ensuring people and the environment were protected when pesticides were applied.
But he warned the VI must not overlap other regulations imposed by bodies monitoring the safe handling of pesticides.
“If it does become too unwieldy all people do is kick against it,” he said during a visit to the Agrovista depot at Lymm in Cheshire.
“A huge amount of regulation surrounds the handling and storage of pesticides before they even arrive on the farm, but I’m very impressed by the way farmers have played their part and ensured that safety standards are adhered to right up to the point of application,” he added.
“The initiative set out to bring all sectors together; it has achieved that and that’s clearly the reason for its success.”
North West NFU director Robert Sheasby said the VI had proved that farmers can handle and use pesticides safely and ensure the environment is protected.
“It has never been more important for arable farmers to be able to produce food of the highest quality and to do that there has to be a safe but effective system of crop protection in place,” he said.
“The VI has shown that farmers are committed to doing that and will co-operate with all those involved without the need for over-regulation.”
Arable farmer Ed Houghton of Houghton Bros, Knutsford admitted he was sceptical when the voluntary initiative was introduced.
“But it’s proved to be a very workable scheme and there’s a lot more clarity about how we need to do things,” he said.
“It’s set standards and improved the public’s awareness of how we operate to those standards.
“We’ve got three sprayers and it costs us £600 a year to get them checked. It’s an added cost but it probably saves us more than that in the downtime that we avoid because the inspectors are picking up potential problems before they happen.”
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