IF ANYONE needed proof that the dream of a red-tape-free farming was an impossibly silly one, they need only peruse the forthcoming waste regs from the Environment Agency. Here, couched in the polite-yet-stern tones of regulator-speak are the EA”s plans for a cleaner and tidier UK agriculture.

To be fair, a small proportion of farmers have no doubt been a bit of an environmental hazard in the past. And farms have had a relatively easy time compared with the rest of industry in that they been able to opt out of the Waste Management Licensing Regulations since 1994.

All this will change later this year (the exact date has not been set). Then, new regs will bring every UK farm under the same regulatory yoke as, say, a brewery, car-making plant or mattress factory. Since just about every farmer is reckoned to be disposing of waste in ways that will soon become illegal, there are few escapees.

The key word here is waste. If you can prove that something is going to be used, whether it is old engine oil for a workshop heater, scrap steel for mending an implement or rubble for filling holes in a track, then the EA”s beady eye will pass elsewhere. Provided you have registered it as an exemption, that is.

  • But if that something is unwanted, you will need to think about how to dispose of it. That could mean one of the following:
  • Taking it to a licensed disposal/recycling site.
  • Paying a registered contractor to take it away.
  • Registering a licence exemption to dispose on-farm or to reuse the waste. For example, using tyres on a silage clamp. The EA says registering exemptions will be simple, quick and free.
  • Storing it for 12 months before disposal or 36 months before recycling. Tempting, but it only puts off the problem and you will probably still need to register a licence exemption.
  • Getting a waste management licence or landfill permit.

There is still a lot about these forthcoming regs that is not known. Like whether the EA will do routine inspections of farms or whether it will rely on tip-offs. And indeed what the punishment for breaking the rules will be. All we know so far is that the penalty will match the risk to the environment or human health. Also, the rules do not form part of cross-compliance, but they may do in the future.

Bonfires

The traditional bonfire, on which you lobbed wood, plastic bags, spray containers and the odd tyre is firmly in the EA”s sights. Bonfires involving silage plastic, spray containers, tyres, oil filters, etc, will be strictly off the menu once the new regs arrive. Burning up a few tree branches or a failed straw bale in a field is OK, but will you will still need to apply for a [SaP6] licence exemption.

Rubble/concrete/soil

Heaps of soil and rubble are to be found on most farms and seem innocent enough. But you will still need to get a licence exemption and they can only be stored for up to three years without being used. And you will have to register another exemption if you want to repair your tracks or fill in holes with them.

Farm dumps

You won”t have to remove these, [SaP7] but you won”t be allowed to add to them either, otherwise the EA will call it a landfill site. That involves a 2000 permit, installing a liner to contain liquids, extensive compulsory monitoring and a fixed closure date. The only exception is plant matter (like the contents of rejected silage bales) which can be composted. That will need an exemption, though.

[SaP1] AS long as you have registered an exemption with the EA for the recycling of the particular waste product. [SaP2] Punishment will be proportionate to the risk to environment or human health. Up to 20,000 or imprisonment. [SaP3] Not sure if this is allowed! [SaP4] Details of this will be released by the EA when the regulations are rolled out. [SaP5] Prices for non-hazardous waste, within 10 miles, (From 1st Skip Hire, Reading). [SaP6] It is not clear yet which exemptions will need to be renewed annually. [SaP7] Not necessary