21 May 1999
Fight pesticide tax, agrochem
business tells growers

By Andrew Blake

HEFTY pesticide taxation remains a threat – to avoid it farmers need to argue harder and explain more widely why they need crop protection products, says the British Agrochemicals Association (BAA).

“The BAA has fought vigorously against what it regards as a potentially damaging tax for over a year,” says director general Anne Buckenham.

“We are frustrated because it has taken resources away from other activities, such as stewardship.”

But although the March budget contained no reference to a tax on crop protection, a similar move to extract cash from the quarrying industry through an aggregates tax shows the risk remains, says BAA government relations manager Martin Savage.

“It is very clear that the government wants to press ahead with a pesticides tax.

“Our industry has lobbied hard against it. But there is a view that we would say that wouldnt we? Now it is obvious that the way ahead is for farmers to lobby directly.”

Targeting the apparent split on policy between environment minister Michael Meacher and agriculture minister, Nick Brown, could pay, he suggests.

Individual letters from growers outlining how a tax would hit their businesses need sending to both.

Constructive dialogue with the government to seek alternatives, which might include a levy, would be welcome, he stresses.

But as the banding proposals stand, products deemed most harmful could suffer a tax of over 100%.

Farmers need pesticides and must be prepared to explain their benefits to a broad non-farming audience, agrees colleague Richard Trow-Smith.

To help them a new BAA leaflet, The Facts about Crop Protection, is being widely distributed. “Farmers feel they are the most misunderstood people on the planet.” v The leaflet, which opens up to form a poster, highlights how, in BAAs view, everyone benefits. “It contains lots of simple messages to help tell the story.

For example one female aphid can lead to 600 billion in one year – the weight of 10,000 men. And in 1940 it took five people to produce your food. Now it takes only two.”

Six new titles are being added to the BAAs series of free stewardship leaflets:

  • Agrochemical Storage;
  • Emergency procedures;
  • Pesticides & Conservation;
  • Pesticide Training;
  • Protective Clothing;
  • Record Keeping.
Produced after consultation with MAFF, PSD, HSE, EA, FWAG and the NFU, they join six earlier titles in a series which has proved the most popular the association has ever produced, says Mr Trow-Smith.

They are said to be particularly useful for growers involved in crop assurance schemes, keeping them abreast of changes in regulations.