Farmers resent new checks on crop chemicals

Farmers have struck out at new red tape which will force all businesses using plant protection products - including crop sprays such as weedkillers, fungicides, insecticides, growth regulators and adjuvants – to register their details with the authorities.

NFU vice president David Exwood
NFU vice president David Exwood

The industry has expressed anger at the move which has seen the new Official Controls (Plant Protection products) Regulations (OCR) introduced –including a range of new inspections - with little warning and only minimal consultation with the industry on how they would be implemented.

The new requirements - which were published over the weekend by Defra and the HSE -mean that anyone who uses PPPs must register with Defra (which is also expected to handle the issue for the relevant government departments in Scotland and Wales) by 22 June.

Introduced as part of the 2020 food safety regulations, the OCR forms part of a package of requirements designed to ensure regulators engaged with professional users and distributors of PPPs in a proactive way, establishing a risk-based approach to inspection and enforcement.

Defra said the aim of the post-Brexit legislation was to ensure compliance with existing pesticide legislation, across agriculture, horticulture, amenity and forestry. In the farming industry, the regulations will cover not only arable and horticulture growers but also livestock and other sectors using applied pesticides.

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Producers will have to register their name, business address and information on the quantity of professional PPPs both used and stored in a typical year. Forms are available for doing this on the Defra website. The Defra web page also provides examples of PPPs and adjuvants as well as information on how the HSE will enforce the regulations.

Commenting on the introduction of the new rules, English NFU vice president David Exwood said the additional red tape was very poorly timed, affecting farmers and growers when their businesses were already under significant stress from spiralling costs, in particular for fertiliser, feed and labour:

"The NFU has impressed on Defra that these new regulatory requirements must be implemented in as least burdensome a way as possible,” said Exwood.

However a Defra spokesperson said that the OCR was part of a larger package of measures called Smarter Rules for Safer Food (SRSF) designed to modernise, simplify and bolster the agri-food chain in Europe:

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“The strengthening of health and safety standards is essential to ensure consumers’ confidence and sustainability of food production”

They said that the regulations would enable regulatory authorities to support compliance and enforce legal requirements that apply to the placing on the market and use of PPPs throughout the supply chain, with the rules also extending to businesses that produce, manufacture, process, import, store, distribute and sell PPPs.

They said that under the OCR, the HSE would have powers to carry out unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with existing pesticides regulations – adding that businesses would be required to cooperate with such inspections:

“The purpose of an inspection is to check how well users are complying with their duties under plant protection product law,” they said.

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