FARMERS COULD be forced to comply with radical new rules on red diesel use once an ongoing government consultation is concluded, according to the NFU.
“We don”t think the idea of status quo is an option in this consultation,” said Jonathan Pettit, the union”s agricultural inputs adviser.
“Farmers value the red diesel concession and want to keep it, so we must find a solution that satisfies the government while taking care of the needs of farmers,” he said.
The consultation, conducted by Customs and Excise, began in December (News, Dec 17, 2004) and is part of a government campaign to crack down on red diesel fraud.
The consultation ends in less than four weeks” time on Mar 2.
There is concern within the union that a radical revision of the rules regulating the use of rebated gas oil is on the cards.
The consultation document states that there is no reason why a lower rate of duty should apply for road haulage of agricultural loads than for other goods.
It is possible, says the NFU, that this may have consequences for activities such as transport on roads of animals or harvested crops.
The consultation asks for views on which criteria might be effective in discouraging inappropriate road use by tractors using red diesel. Speed or travel distance restrictions are among suggested alternatives.
The NFU favours a change based on speed. “We are still going through the consultation with our members, but our view is that a speed limit of 25mph for vehicles using red diesel on public roads should be an option,” said Mr Pettit.
He said it would have the advantage for government of being fairly easily enforceable.
Ian Jones, director general of the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association, told farmers weekly that the agricultural industry must be prepared to negotiate with the government on red diesel.
“The industry must be ready to negotiate. To keep the status quo, the industry must offer something in return, and we think a deal on improved vehicle maintenance would be a good start.
“As we all know, there are plenty of vehicles around which are not suitable for road use,” Mr Jones said.
Jill Hewitt, chief executive of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, emphasised the need for a level playing field for farmers and contractors in terms of access to red diesel use.
She also said that enforcement of the current legislation would go a long way to solve the problems raised in the consultation documents.