9 November 2000
Last-ditch fight on spray tax

By Donald MacPhail

FARMING and agrochemical industry representatives will continue to meet the Government in a last-ditch bid to remove the threat of a pesticide tax.

Hopes that ministers would agree to industry proposals to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides were dashed on Wednesday (08 November).

Revised proposals submitted by industry body the Crop Protection Association and farming groups were rejected by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

And unless a deal on voluntary measures can be brokered, a pesticide tax looks set to be included in the spring Budget.

Earlier proposals had already been rejected after consultation responses claimed they were not substantial enough and contained little new.

Mr Browns pre-Budget report states that the Government welcomed the new proposals but “believes they still fail to meet a number of concerns raised”.

Proposals included increased training, research work to encourage the adoption of Integrated Crop Management, and “best practice” campaigns.

Now the CPA and ministers will hold further discussions in the run-up to the 2001 Budget to try to thrash out a solution.

CPA officials were bemused with the Governments rejection, and the fact that it came without a word of explanation.

CPA director general Anne Buckenham said: “We will be interested to hear from the Government why it feels the proposals still fail to meet those concerns.”

She added: “We remain committed to working with the Government and other stakeholders to reach agreement on this complex issue.”

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said: “We agreed broadly with the arguments put forward in the original responses.

“We welcome the revised submission, but still areas which still need further improvement which we will discuss in detail with stakeholders.”

A CPA spokesman said: “I hope that we will get an agreement on this issue, but that is not the same as saying I am optimistic.”

The CPA and farming organisations say a pesticide tax would severely damage UK agriculture without delivering environmental benefits.