15 June 2001

Anti-pesticide tax move unfair & unworkable

The foot-and-mouth crisis

means there is no Sprays

and Sprayers event this year.

But over the following pages

and on p78-83 of the

Machinery section we

examine some of the key

issues that would have been

debated, starting here with

one farmers concerns about

pesticide stewardship

STEWARDSHIP proposals designed to stave off a pesticide tax have been labelled as unworkable, unfair and overcomplicated by a leading farm manager.

But a spokesman for the Crop Protection Association, which led the industrys stewardship taskforce, disagrees. He says farmers need to work with the industry to prevent the £120m tax (see panel).

"The CPAs 27 action points load all the cost and effort onto the farmer," fumes Beds-based farm manager John Errington. "There should be more of a contribution from the manufacturers and government in this.

"Spraying is a difficult operation at the best of times. If these proposals are taken literally we will never get out of the yard."

One of his key concerns is the continuation of LERAP (Local Environment Risk Assessment for Pesticides) buffer zones alongside watercourses. With their myriad requirements according to field boundary type, chemical and nozzle use they are too complicated and are just not working.

"We do not have a single field without at least one watercourse and some have watercourses on all four sides. Trying to miss out the various distances is a nightmare."

That fact should be recognised and 6m set-aside strips permitted. Countryside Stewardship strips offer a little compensation, but area accepted on the scheme is limited and few growers can afford to have stewardship headlands and set-aside.

"MAFF has all the information on every eligible field. It could easily monitor a 6m set-aside system.

"So many of the problems could be solved in one hit – hedgerow management, wildlife, pollution – it is so obvious. Why arent we doing it? It is no use using the EU as an excuse. If they dont like it, we should tell them why we are doing it and do it anyway."

Meanwhile, efforts to reduce so-called point source pollution – small spillages of concentrate – should start with manufacturers and a standard closed transfer system, says Mr Errington.

"It is a major disappointment to me that manufacturers have failed to adopt a common reusable container scheme."

Machinery manufacturers could also play their part in spreading the costs by offering free MOT tests as part of the follow-up service on sprayers. "They would gain a lot of credibility."

As for ICM, training and crop protection management plan recommendations, which are all part of the stewardship proposals (Arable May 25), Mr Errington says most growers are already doing all three, albeit not labelled as such.

"If the CPA doesnt want a revolt from the farming industry on this, all sides will have to work together – chemical manufacturers, government, sprayer manufacturers, and farmers – if ever there was a case for joined-up thinking then this is it."

STEWARDSHIPGRIPES

&#8226 Bureaucratic and unworkable.

&#8226 Growers bear too much of the cost.

&#8226 Simple solutions needed, such as a 6m set-aside and standard closed transfer system.

CPA response

Martin Savage of the Crop Protection Association refutes allegations that all the cost of the stewardship proposals fall on farmers.

"The cost is split in proportion – £2.2m to the crop protection industry and £11m to farmers. Besides, the tax would have fallen entirely on farmers shoulders."

Requests for 6m set-aside were put to government but the pre-election answer was that it would involve extra cost for MAFF and progressing closed transfer systems is in the small print of the proposals.

"Growers must realise that many of the finer details are still to be resolved and negotiation is the way forward, he stresses. "If too many farmers say too vocally that it isnt going to work I guarantee there will be a pesticide tax within a year."