Concern over grandfather rights phase-out

Top fruit growers have expressed their concern over the phasing out of "grandfather rights" as part of new EU pesticide legislation.

The rights will be rescinded by 2015 as part of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive - a consultation on which was carried out by the government earlier this year to find out how the industry would prefer it be implemented.

The new EU directive will force all pesticide users to undergo some kind of training. At present, those who spray on their own property and were born before 1965 do not require training.

The British Independent Fruit Growers' Association (BIFGA) revealed last week at its annual general meeting (AGM) - held at CM Ramus & Sons' Barons Grange Farm in Iden, East Sussex - that this piece of legislation will hit fruit growers the hardest.

This is because a higher proportion of them rely on grandfather rights because their average age is greater than those in other sectors.

BIFGA is therefore supporting the option of a "partial certificate" - whereby growers who have used grandfather rights would undertake a reduced amount of training.

John Tobutt, committee member for pesticide issues, said in BIFGA's response to the consultation: "We are concerned about the withdrawal of grandfather rights and question how much evidence there is to suggest that these operators pose any real risks to human health or the environment.

"Also, we contend that the average age in agriculture and fruit growing in particular is increasing (now about 60 years) and, given the very strong probability that retirement age will be raised from the current 65 years in the near future, that the impact assessment needs to be reviewed.

"We are, however, encouraged in this option that a shortened training course followed by an assessment leading to certification is a proposal that we would support."

Another issue of concern to BIFGA is the EU directive's proposal for growers to have to inform their neighbours when they are spraying.BIFGA described this requirement as a "minefield".

Masstock representative Brendan Rhodes said at the AGM: "It's going to be a nightmare notifying the neighbours, which for us is going to be every seven days. It's just not practical."

Top fruit growers, in their consultation response, also sounded alarm bells over the EU's insistence that all equipment used in spraying should be regularly tested.

BIFGA said: "The example in the consultation paper that the cost to test a knapsack sprayer is £91 demonstrates that the costs are excessive and out of proportion. It does seem to be another 'licence to print money' scheme which growers have to fund.

"Option two in the consultation, which permits the least frequency of testing (every three years), is preferred with the voluntary option to test more frequently if desired."

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