16 October 1998

Dip disposal licenses

SHEEP producers will soon have to apply for licences to dispose of sheep dip on open land, as the government steps up its efforts to meet EU rules on groundwater protection.

New regulations are expected by the end of the month, with licensing due to commence early next year. Currently farmers have only to comply with certain guidelines on sheep dip disposal.

Pressure for the change has come from the EU Commission, which last week threatened to take the UK to the European Court if it did not tighten its controls within three months.

The commission says that, without licensing, the government is failing to meet the terms of the 1980 Groundwater Directive.

Licences will also be required for discharging pesticides on open ground. But in practice this is less of an issue as farmers will still be able to spray tank washings on growing crops without a licence.

NFU environment consultant Michael Payne described the rule change as "excessive" in terms of the risk involved. "There have been some problems in relation to sheep dip getting into streams, but this directive refers only to groundwater where sheep dip is only very rarely detected."

He did, however, welcome a recent Environment Agency consultation into the whole subject of sheep dip management, which should lead to better pollution controls.