Residents have a low level of concern for farm spraying activities and farmers support a voluntary approach to notification, according to an NFU study.

The survey captured the views of 200 NFU members to ascertain the level of support for a voluntary scheme if this avoided a statutory requirement to notify neighbours.

Additionally, it aimed to find out the current level of notification activities carried out on farm, estimate the level of concern among residents and find farmers’ preferred method of notification should it be required.

Results showed that many farmers were already informing neighbours of spraying activities and the level of concern from residents was low, equating to one enquiry per farm every seven years.

Many farmers were already implementing measures such as public farm events, talks, use of buffer zones, talking to walkers on footpaths and avoiding spraying some fields at certain times.

“These results show how much is already happening on farms, but is not being recorded at a national level,” said NFU plant health adviser Paul Chambers.

It was a positive result and highlighted the fact that the farmer was best placed to decide which measures were required given the location and the level of concern, he added.

“The key thing is for farmers to talk to local residents, gauge the situation and respond accordingly.”

“A requirement for legal notification is disproportionate to the level of concern. Voluntary schemes have proved themselves in the past and are more suitable in this case.”

But Georgina Downs of UK Pesticides Campaign maintained that a voluntary approach was not enough.

“Voluntary measures have existed for decades, have not worked – however many times they are repackaged – and are completely unacceptable in this situation, as the fundamental cause of the problem is with the Government’s policy and the lack of legal protection for residents,” she said.

“There are no justifiable reasons to continue to deny this basic information right to residents and others exposed to pesticides,” she added. “Mandatory measures must be introduced, which are very, very long overdue.”