Chemicals' on-farm use, storage and disposal regulation
The banning of a class of neonicotinoid insecticides and the end of grandfather rights for the application of Plant Protection Products without certification are timely reminder of the regulatory requirements farmers must consider when dealing with chemicals on their land.
The European ban on neonicotinoid compounds is a good example of the continuously changing list of approved products for crop and animal protection. In circumstances where a product's approval is withdrawn there will be a run-off period during which old supplies can still be used, but that isn't always the case so it's always best to check.
When using chemicals it's important to remember that all sprays should be stored in a suitable chemical storage unit until they are needed. If a product is out-of-date or has had its authorisation removed it should not be used in any circumstances and the product should be disposed of.
Storing products which are no longer approved or on which the use-by date has expired is potentially a criminal offence.
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So what's best practice for farmers? The first step really is to make sure that only those chemicals required are those in storage and try not to carry large stockpiles. This is not only sensible from a safety point of view, but also from a business one too. Sprays are expensive and there is no point buying chemicals which are not going to be applied before their end date.
Government policy on the application of crop protection products is that their use should be minimised, and this makes perfect business sense as well as environmental sense.
If you do end up with out-of-date or unauthorised product it's imperative you immediately contact a reputable and licensed waste contractor to take it away. When they do you should carefully collate the products and ensure you get a consignment sheet confirming exactly what has been removed.
The other options are to take them to a licensed waste disposal/waste recovery site. The Environment Agency has lists of local sites which accept such waste and also details of any licensed incinerator sites.
Unfortunately, as with the disposal of all waste chemicals and hazardous waste, there is a cost implication, but it is dwarfed by the potential distress and fine if there is a breach of the many regulations affecting the safe storage, use and disposal of chemicals.
Farmers should also make sure that the operator of the sprayer or the people dealing with chemicals are properly trained, there is a record of that training, the training is ongoing and that suitable protective clothing is available at all times. Don't be tempted to stock up on spray if you think you're getting a good price.
If you do happen to be investigated by one of the regulatory authorities they will no doubt want to interview you under caution, but you should not agree to this until you have taken legal advice and you have the opportunity to have a lawyer present. The difficulty with an interview under caution is that things said or not said can prove catastrophic to any case and leave no option other than to plead guilty and accept a fine.
Regulation on farms is getting more technical (notwithstanding the drive to reduce red tape) and there are many potential unforeseen situations which can arise, even for the wary.
Joel Woolf is partner and head of agriculture and rural business at regional law firm Foot Anstey