FARMERS MUST ensure they have done all they can if the Voluntary Initiative (VI) is to meet its March 31 targets and the UK is to avoid a compulsory pesticide tax.

This warning came as industry representatives gave evidence to a House of Commons EFRA sub-committee enquiry on the success of the VI and the possibility of a pesticide tax.

“The real success of the VI so far is that it has joined up a very wide cross-industry effort, resulting in behaviour change on the farm,” said Crop Protection Association chairman, Joachim Schneider.

“It has produced tangible benefits for the environment. Elements of the VI need to be built into the Entry Level Scheme from CAP Reform to incentivise environmental benefit.”

But in order to meet this year‘s targets, significant progress is still required on Crop Protection Management Plans and sprayer testing, said the National Farmers Union‘s Neil Kift.

“The government said in its pre-budget report that it will back the VI, provided we are able to deliver on the ground.”

He said farmers should ensure that:

  1. Sprayers have been tested in the last 12 months
  2. CPMPs are registered and have been updated in the last 12 months
  3. All National Register of Sprayer Operator points are registered

While the industry has been successful at meeting targets in the past, farmers must not let the momentum drop, added John Smith, chairman of the Scottish Voluntary Initiative Group.

“Some elements of the VI can seem burdensome but its success so far is the reason we are not currently lumbered with a pesticides tax that would cost the UK arable industry over £120m.”

Crop Protection Management Plans can be downloaded from www.voluntaryinitiative.org.uk, or find your nearest sprayer tester at www.aea.uk.com/sprayer.