DEFRA HAS confirmed its intention to introduce tighter controls on the disposal of farm waste that could add 65m a year to farming”s costs.

The department has published a consultation paper proposing that national waste management controls must be extended to agriculture. It is a move that could cost individual farms up to £2380 a year to comply with.

Among the government’s suggestions are bans on the open burning of plastic waste and on disposal of waste in on-farm dumps without a landfill permit.

Strict controls are proposed regarding storage, transport, recovery and final disposal of farm waste.

DEFRA says current methods of on-farm disposal of waste can cause pollution and pose unnecessary health risks to farmers, farm workers and local communities.

More than 160,000 farmers, growers and their suppliers will be contacted this December so that they can take part in the consultation and have their say about the new waste regulations.

Junior DEFRA minister Elliot Morley said: “For many years agriculture has been excluded from our national waste management controls.

“These proposals will extend existing waste management controls to farm waste for the first time.”

Deputy NFU president Peter Kendall said the proposals presented significant challenges for the farming industry. But he acknowledged the need for new ways of dealing with farm waste.

“We know that, in many cases, the situation with agricultural waste on farms is not sustainable. It is not only bad for the environment, but is also bad for farm businesses.”

Mr Kendall said the NFU would be working closely with DEFRA, the Environment Agency and the agricultural supply industry in the months ahead.

The aim of the groups is to develop practical and cost-effective solutions that will help farmers concentrate on running their businesses.

The consultation will last until March next year, and the regulations are expected in June 2005.

There will be a 12-month transitional period during which the EA will inform and advise farmers as to how to comply with the new rules.

But the use of farm dumps will have to stop before the regulations take effect. Failure to comply on this point may lead to long-term monitoring or closure requirements under the Landfill Regulations.

DEFRA has said it is committed to ensure that licensing exemptions are available for farmers, especially for the recovery of farm waste.

But the EA has recommended to the government that exemptions should not apply to the use of drum incinerators for burning plastics.