18 August 1995

Dip scheme comes under renewed fire

By Peter Bullen

FRESH attacks have been made on the governments certificate of competence in the safe use of sheep dips scheme.

So far, fewer than 11,000 of the countrys 88,000 sheep farmers have obtained certificates. Only people holding a certificate can buy organophosphorus dips.

The poor uptake by farmers is worrying the NFU. It has been attacked by Liberal Democrat farm spokesman Paul Tyler and animal health distributors have strongly condemned the whole "ill thought-out" scheme. It did nothing to ensure that those who use OP dips did so competently or safely, said the Animal Health Distributors Association.

In a letter to the National Sheep Association, AHDAs chief executive, Dr Roger Dawson, said the scheme could even be aiding the spread of scab. There was an argument that extending controls over sale and supply of OPs had contributed to the spread by preventing many farmers from buying OPs from their usual supplier.

"One of the requirements for effective control is the widest possible availability of effective products for its prevention and controls," he said. "That availability has been compromised by this ill thought-out scheme."

Dr Dawson said AHDA saw no possible justification for the scheme – apart from political expediency, which allowed ministers and others to talk loosely about having taken action to ensure that those who use dips are trained to do so.

In fact, he added later, the scheme did not ensure that the people who used dips were properly trained. Dealers had evidence that people in farm offices who had nothing to do with the dipping were taking the examination.

Mr Tyler deplored the small number of sheep farmers who had obtained certificates.

Either some were buying quantities of OPs for other farmers or the industry had stockpiled OP dips in advance. An even more worrying prospect was that less dipping was being done, he said.

He suggested the government encouraged farmers to switch to alternative products by helping to subsidise more expensive treatments.

&#8226 A meeting of experts, campaigners and OP dip sufferers is being held in Tiverton, Devon, on Sep 15. It will be chaired by Paul Tyler, who is chairman of the all-party group of MPs on OPs. Mr Tyler said it was being held in junior farm minister Angela Brownings constituency to make it easy for her to attend.