It doesnt matter if you dip or not – you pay: EA
By James Garner
FLOCKMASTERS are being forced to pay bills from the Environment Agency for dip disposal even if they havent disposed of dip on their land.
Following last years new Groundwater Regulations, sheep producers had to register with the EA if they wanted to dip sheep and dispose of spent dip on their farms.
More than 9000 flock owners registered for dip disposal, at a cost of £85; however, many seem to have been unaware that they would be facing an annual charge of £107 regardless of whether they dipped their sheep or not.
Many flockmasters believe it is wrong that they are being charged for something they havent used and the NSAs chief executive John Thorley backs their view.
"I think the EA needs to be careful if it is going to coerce producers to pay for a service they havent had. It must work with industry and not try to act as a police force."
The NSA appears to be giving its full support to those who havent dipped and have a "legitimate grievance" because they havent disposed of any waste into the environment. "Its something we are going to take up with the EA," promises Mr Thorley, hinting that a formal complaint will be made.
One Worcs farmer, Tony Hall of Hawthorn Farm, Pershore, spoke to farmers weekly. "I object paying for something I havent used. I thought it was a one-off payment and did not realise it would incur an annual charge."
Mr Hall says he will join the other 10-15% of flock owners in England refusing to pay the annual charge, and will probably de-register from Groundwater Regulations, despite wanting to have the option to dip his sheep if required.
Although the bills have annoyed hard-pressed producers, there is little sympathy to be had from officials at the EA.
Anyone holding an authorisation to dip still has to pay an annual charge, says Groundwater Regulations manager Bob Pailor, and that may mean answering to a debt recovery agency if you havent settled your account, he warns.
Its justification for pursuing debt and charging for an unused service is that its role monitoring ground water regulations continues regardless of authorisation. "We have to implement regulations and theres a cost involved."
But faced with the charge that this could be seen as a profit-making scam, he reassures farmers that all money collected is invested back into Groundwater Regulations.
According to Mr Pailor, authorisation is an insurance policy for flock owners: where their flocks become infected with scab and they have to dip, at least they can dispose of waste, he says. But the EAs charging policy and the fact that some producers will de-register is reducing many flockmasters options for controlling scab.
However, Mr Pailor says the EA does not want producers to stop dipping as this could have consequences for animal health. However, he acknowledges that the situation for flock owners has been complicated by recent OP product withdrawals, with only synthetic pyreithroid dips remaining.
Theres a quandary for many flockmasters, he says. "Either you give-up ground water authorisation until OPs are allowed to be used again and then re-register, or hold on to authorisation and risk the ban on OP dips being extended if no containers meet approval."
Any producers de-registering will have to pay another application fee of £88 to have authorisation re-instated. Those considering this option but worried about a sudden outbreak of scab can take some solace in Mr Pailors reassurances that the EA will do all it can to turn applications around as fast as possible if they wish to dip. *
• Annual charge of £107.
• Debt recovery.
• Can de-register.
Sheep producers are concerned about Environment Agency bills.