13 July 2000
Government to refund sheep dip cash

By Isabel Davies

THE Environment Agency is set to refund payments made by producers for the authorisation of sheep dip and pesticide disposal.

The agency will start sending out the refunds of annual subsistence charges for the groundwater regulations to over 10,000 farmers later this month.

The decision to defer the 107 annual subsistence charge for four years in England and Wales was taken at the Downing Street summit on 30 March.

This means producers will have to pay only one 92 application charge during the period, saving the industry an estimated 4.5 million.

“Several thousands of farmers stand to benefit,” said Nigel Reader, the Environment Agencys director of finance.

“No one will be required to apply for refunds and those who have not yet paid will receive confirmation that these charges have been cancelled.”

Farmers who paid will have their 107 payment returned. In addition, credit notices will be issued so farmers have a complete set of records for their books.

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, welcomed the news but expressed dismay at the length of time it had taken to administrate.

“The time taken for this money to come back to farmers bothers us. There should definitely be interest on top,” he told Farmers Weekly.

But Bob Merriman, the Environment Agencys rural land use officer for Wales, said interest would not be paid as it would only be a small amount.

The delay was because agency officials had been forced to clarify who was meant to benefit from the removal of charges, he added.

There had been also been confusion about whether the removal of charges for small disposals was meant to apply to non-farmers as well as farmers.

Mr Merriman said that with charges on hold there was a real incentive for farmers who had not yet made an application to apply.

“This reduces the overall burden of charge and means farmers can get an authorisation in at a relatively low cost ahead of when they actually need it.”