Agency spells out pesticide rules after voluntary system found too weak

The Environment Agency has issued new guidance on handling of pesticides and disposal of spray washings to help improve farmyard practice and compliance with the law under the terms of the Voluntary Initiative.

The booklet clearly highlights what is acceptable and unacceptable practice and sets out the latest guidance on the use of biobeds as an effective way for pesticides to be broken down.

The guidance publication comes a week after the House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee found that the Voluntary Initiative was “ineffective and weak” with little environmental benefit arising from it. (see related story).

The committee was of the opinion that the VI would never be comprehensive enough to cover all pesticide users and recommended further mandatory regulatory measures to ensure the involvement of the amenity sector.

It also suggested making testing and operator registration mandatory to be compatible with forthcoming EU legislation on pesticides.

This latest publication falls far short of that, but does offer guides to best practice.

Andy Croxford, Environment Agency Pesticide Policy Manager, said: “Anyone who applies pesticides on farms needs to read this guidance. The clear and simple steps to follow should give farmers the reassurance they need. There is no excuse for farmers to fall foul of the Groundwater Regulations and in doing so risk losing part of their Single Farm Payment. The farmyard is potentially a major source of pesticide pollution but with a few small improvements you can protect the environment and at the same time reduce disposal costs.”

Pesticides can enter water course in a number of ways and cause severe pollution to the environment. Around half of all pesticides entering watercourse are from poor practice around the farmyard and water companies spend millions of pounds every year removing them from drinking water.

Biobeds can be an effective way of breaking down pesticides and using them means farmers can avoid the need for groundwater authorisations and associated inspections. However, waste management legislation will apply to biobeds when controls on agricultural waste are introduced in 2005.

Peter Kendall, NFU Deputy President said: “It’s always good to have updated advice on best practice, but we look forward to the exemption of lined biobeds from the agricultural waste regulations to make the adoption of lined biobeds a practical reality.”

By David Hopkins

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