28 June 2002

Industry leaders urge growers to sign professional register

By Tom Allen-Stevens

DEFRA, farming unions and industry leaders have united to call on UK arable farmers to sign up to a new professional register for spray operators.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty launched the National Register of Spray Operators at the Sprays and Sprayers event near Cambridge on June 25.

The register forms part of the Voluntary Initiatives measures to find alternatives to a pesticide tax as a means of minimising the impact of pesticides on the environment. But the launch was made amid fears that not enough farmers would sign up until they were forced to do so.

"A key aspect of pesticide application is to keep training up-to-date to minimise the environmental impact and apply them in a targeted way," said the minister. "It is also paramount that training covers safety."

The NFU heralded the new register as a chance for growers to show their commitment to the "responsible" use of crop protection measures. "The industry continues to face criticism in spite of developments in technology and application that have transformed the use of crop protection products and their environmental impact over recent years," said vice-president Michael Paske.

Farmers at the Sprays and Sprayers event viewed the register as essential if the industry was to avoid the financial pressure of a pesticides tax. Most said they would sign up, although there was concern at the time commitment it would involve.

But some were worried it would not solve the problem of poor practice by the minority of operators. "Its all very well for the conscientious farmers to sign up and give up a day a year to train, but there are an awful lot who couldnt give a hoot," said Suffolk grower Ed Whitehead.