Minutes of the 32nd Pesticides Forum Meeting, held on 20th February 2007, at Defra Offices, Nobel House, London SW1.
Those present are listed at Annex A.
The new Chair James Clarke opened the proceedings of the 32ndmeeting. He also introduced the guest speakers for this meeting: Viv Powell from the Horticultural Development Council (HDC) and David Richardson from PSD.
The Chair welcomed Jon Ayres as the new representative of the ACP replacing David Coggon and Tracey Ware who was standing in for Nigel Chadwick as the Secretary on this occasion.
2. Apologies for Absence
Tracey Ware recorded the apologies for absence: Michael Woodhouse (FWAG), Jacquie Salfield (Foodaware), Alistair Leake (GCT), Mike Ward (TGWU), Ian McKee (DARDNI), Martin Johnston (SEERAD), Simon Dyer (DoH). She also announced that Clare Butler Ellis had stood down as the representative of PAN-UK, no replacement had yet been identified and finally, Martin Williams (WAG) was attending in place of David Thomas.
3. Minutes and Matters Arising from the 31st meeting held on 11th October 2006
3a. Keith Dawson and Helen Bower asked that the record of the previous meeting be amended to record that they both agreed with James Grant’s view that the wording on the precautionary approach provided in the February 2006 minutes did not accurately reflect that which had been agreed.
3b. In response to the Secretariat Action Point about levy-funded research Julian Hasler asked that all members be sent copies of all information.
4. Agreement of Annual and Indicators Reports
4a. James Clarke reported that both the Annual Report 2006 and the ‘Indicators’ Report 2006 had been sent to the Plain English Campaign ahead of the agreed schedule. James stressed that only factual errors on the report should now be given to the Secretariat. He thanked all organisations for their contributions and help in compiling both reports.
4b. Keith Dawson offered his congratulations to the Indicators Group for the compilation of an excellent report. James Clarke said there was a grammatical error in the Foreword which he would send to the Secretariat. Peter Pitkin said that some information was presented as only for England and Wales , some for the United Kingdom and at other times it was not clear what areas were covered. The Secretariat agreed to look again at the legends for each table.
5. Update of the joint VI/Pesticides Forum Indicators work
James Clarke introduced this information item. He referred members to the Indicators Framework document. James explained that ADAS had been commissioned by PSD to produce a framework into which indicators developed and used by organisations such as the Forum or the VI could be placed. The framework had been developed by a Working Group drawn from specialists within the Forum and VI under James’s chairmanship. It demonstrated how the work (and associated indicators) of initiatives such as the Pesticides National Strategy and how this, in turn, supported the wider Defra departmental objectives.
There were two main types of indicators: headline (which provided a relatively high level overview of performance); and core (designed to present a more detailed picture of specific actions). The indicators themselves were designed to be a mix of those measuring: environmental outcomes; or behavioural change. Although the preference was to use environmental outcome indicators wherever possible Julian Hasler noted that behavioural indicators could be a powerful tool with which to effect change in farmers and growers use of pesticides.
The indicators themselves would evolve as work/information requirements developed or new monitoring regimes were developed.
6. Update on the EU pesticides thematic strategy
6a. Grant Stark introduced this item. He reported that the Government consultation had generated a number of high-quality responses. In general respondents welcomed the package as a useful development.
On the sustainable use directive, many respondents felt that the UKs existing mix of statutory and voluntary controls, delivered an effective package of controls. However, respondents identified a number of areas in which the proposal could be strengthened e.g. training and water protection) or where clarification was required on the extent to the measures envisaged (e.g. restrictions in sensitive areas, integrated approaches).
On the replacement for the authorisations Directive. Respondents views tended to be more polarised, but there was agreement on was the need for a predictable, transparent, reliable system based upon sound science.
PSD will keep the Forum updated with development of the Strategy.
6b. On an associated point Grant reported that the Government evaluation of the VIs first five year programme had been published on the Defra website. The report noted the difficulties inherent in measuring environmental outcomes (particularly in relation to biodiversity), but reported that the VI had been effective in developing and rolling out useful projects and engaging with the farming community. It noted that the application of VI measures reduced the risk of water contamination.
7. Current water issues (WFD/EA monitoring programme)
Jo Kennedy explained that the EA had met with stakeholders to discuss surface waters indicators. It was agreed that current indicators had their limitations and could be improved by using data collected for the implementation of the WFD, and perhaps that collected by water companies. It was noted that measuring WFD objectives, such as how many water courses are failing to achieve ‘good’ chemical status because of pesticides, was relatively easy to achieve but measurement of the ecological status was probably still some way off. Further work is planned.
One of the key actions in the National Strategy’s draft Water Action Plan (see para 9) is an EA review its surface water monitoring arrangements for pesticides. The review may cover: how to better co-ordinate monitoring arrangements; make the programme more flexible to cope with emerging problems; better reflect ‘higher risk’ situations (e.g. amenity or vulnerable ecosystems). The Secretariat will circulate copies of the EA presentation to members.
Action: Secretariat & EA
8. UK Strategy update: Water Action Plan
8a.Grant Stark introduced this part of the agenda by explaining that the Forum had a key role to plan in assessing the content of the 5 Action Plans (covering water, biodiversity, amenity use, amateur use and products and technique availability) being developed to implement the National Strategy. Grant delivered a short presentation outlining how the Strategy was developed and the key aims, goals and strategic outcomes. Each of the Action Plan Groups was comprised of key stakeholders: representing Government, regulators, NGOs, industry and user groups, retailers and NDPBs.
8b. Grant explained that the actual plans themselves contained details such as short and long term goals and ‘owners’ for each action. The plans themselves were not yet finalised as it was felt necessary to allow the Forum the opportunity to contribute to their content. The plan was to finalise their content at a round of meetings scheduled for the spring. The intention was to report back to the Forum each year on progress with the plans.
8c. Grant explained that as controls of the authorisation and use of pesticides were relatively well developed the action plans largely sought to capture the wide range of existing activity. Activity was categorised under the headings of: use legislation and risk assessment; linkages with existing government initiatives; industry approaches; and ‘others’ (R&D, etc)). However, where new activity was identified as necessary to address particular issues these were included.
Following a brief description of the main features, the Forum endorsed the draft plan.
9. UK Strategy update: Biodiversity Action Plan
Grant Stark gave a brief description of the main features in the plan. Jim Densham noted that there was considerable scope for the Voluntary Initiative’s Terrestrial Biodiversity sub-group could help support key activities (e.g. the ‘Whole Farm Approach’). The Forum endorsed the draft plan.
On an associated point Keith Dawson noted that recent changes to labelling guidance had resulted in farmers falling foul of cross compliance rules. Adrian Dixon said that PSD would discuss the matter with representatives of RPA and those responsible for the policy on Cross Compliance in Defra. James Clarke asked members to let PSD know of any specific examples of problems being faced by farmers.
Action: Members & PSD
10. Minor Uses: Product Availability issues
10a. David Richardson explained that market forces meant that growers of minor crops traditionally faced more difficultly accessing chemicals solutions for plant protection purposes than those growing, for example cereal crops. These problems were being exacerbated by the deepening impact of the EC review programme, need to consider compatibility issues with systems such as Integrated Pest Management; plant and pest resistance; crop safety; and the need to reduce residues.
10b. The minor use issue has been recognised and a number of policy initiatives developed to help address the problem. In the UK this includes: Specific Off-Label Approvals (SOLAs), the Long Term Arrangements for Extension of Use (LTAEU), the Biopesticides scheme and a special off-label recognition scheme. The UK also has a Minor Use Network, a stakeholder group identifying ‘gaps’ in the pesticide armoury.
10c. At an EU level the Community has: established Minor Use Technical and Steering Groups; sought to promote mutual recognition of approvals; developed the concept of ‘essential use’ (to allow time for the development of new solution on critical crops which would be lost following the failure of an active substance to obtain an Annex I listing); and investigated ways to minimise data burdens, whilst maintaining safety.
10d. At an international level: the European Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO) held a workshop on minor uses in Berlin in 2006 and the Food and Veterinary Organisation (FVO) are planning a global summit on minor uses towards the end of 2007. In the US the Government-funded IR4 programme was successfully developed and was now developed joint solutions with Canada .
10e. Viv Powell re-inforced the points made by David. She identified lack of residues data to support minor uses as a major difficulty and drain on the levy-derived resources of the HDC. In addition growers faced major difficulties cultivating certain crops as a result of restrictions imposed by retailers (e.g. of particular products) which go beyond regulatory controls.
11. UK Strategy update: Product Availability Action Plan
11a. Grant introduced the Product and Technique Availability Action Plan noting that it addressed many of the issues identified by David and Viv, notably: the need to ensure policy and the regulatory process recognises and addresses this issue. It also notes that communication between key players at appropriate moments can help ameliorate growers’ difficulties. The Forum endorsed the draft plan.
11b. The Secretariat agreed to circulate copies of the presentations from both David Richardson and Viv Powell.
12. Update on amenity issues and the work of the Amenity Forum
Jon Allbutt provided an update on the work of the Amenity Forum, which brings together 30 organisations with the aim of addressing the issues surrounding the use of pesticides in this sector. The Amenity Forum had established that the performance of users in the amenity sector was mixed. Although many groups of users understood and employed best practice, there were a significant number, particularly in Local Authorities (LA’s) where the level of knowledge was inadequate (this applied to both those specifying and managing contracts and contractors carrying out spray operations). Jon noted that it had historically proved difficult to engage with LAs but useful contacts had recently been established in the wake of a meeting with the Minister, DCLG and the LGA.
13. UK Strategy update: Amenity Action Plan
Grant introduced the draft Action Plan noting that it drew heavily on the issues identified by Jon – changing the behaviour of key users. There was also a need to undertake regular surveys of use and practice in the sector in order to monitor the impact of the measures which were developed. An additional feature of interest was linking into the research into alternative methods of weed control being carried by the InterReg III project. Tom Bals said there is a need to establish best practice particularly on hard surfaces. The Forum endorsed the draft plan.
14. UK Strategy update: Amateur Use
14a. Grant introduced the draft Action Plan noting that the amateur use issues were similar to those on amenity – large numbers of users not necessarily familiar with best practice and a need to improve baseline data. Communication was a key issue – radio having been identified as a possible key information source for users. He also noted that training courses are being established for retail staff in DIY stores and larger garden centres. Links are also being established with the National Household Hazardous Waste Forum.
14b. Jon Ayres said consideration could be given to providing advice for local Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers which could then be made available to the general public. Finally James Clarke asked for a presentation on amateur uses at the next Pesticides Forum meeting in June. The Forum endorsed the draft plan and commended the group on its considerable progress.
14c. James Clarke summarised the discussions by concluding that the Forum was content that the draft Action Plans could deliver the required strategic goals. Furthermore the package of measures developed should, if fully implemented, enable the Strategy to deliver the goal of sustainable use. This would in turn help theUK to comply the expected requirements of the forthcoming Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides.
15. Business plans
James Clarke introduced this item referring to topics identified in recent annual reports. Jim Densham thought that it might be useful to have a presentation on the Wildlife Incidents Investigation Scheme (WIIS). James asked that members let the Secretariat know if they have any other items to be presented at a future meeting.
Any other business
Tom Bals said that the Communications Group was set up a year ago and had met twice since. Some of the issues discussed included better liaison with Defra Press Office, how the Annual Report and Indicators Report should be publicised and how the Forum website could be changed to make searching for Forum documents easier. The Group thought that the spokesperson in the press release should be James Clarke – subject to his agreement. The Group also thought that there should be a standing item on the agenda to decide whether there is anything newsworthy to report from each meeting and to put this out as a press release. It was agreed that this item should be established on forthcoming agendas.
Date of next meeting
It was agreed that the next Forum meeting would take place on 12 June.
Attendees - Annex A
James Clarke - Chair
Peter Hall - Advisory Committee on Organic Standards
Jon Ayres - Advisory Committee on Pesticides
Tom Bals - Agricultural Engineers’ Association
John Ford - Agricultural Industries Confederation
Jon Allbutt - Amenity Forum
Rob Simpson - BASIS
Hugh van Cutsem - Country Land and Business Association
Anne Buckenham - Crop Protection Association
Jo Kennedy - Environment Agency
Mike Shapland - Farmcare (part of the Co-operative Group)
Tony Palmer - Fresh Produce Consortium/British Retailers Consortium
Robert Campbell - Linking Environment And Farming
Julian Hasler - National Farmers’ Union
James Grant - Nation Farmers’ Union Scotland
Keith Dawson - SAC
Peter Pitkin - Scottish Natural Heritage
Jim Densham - Wildlife and Countryside Link
Helen Bower - Women’s Food and Farming Union
Viv Powell - Horticultural Development Council
Tim Davis - PSD
Adrian Dixon - PSD
Grant Stark - PSD
David Richardson - PSD
Tracey Ware - PSD (secretariat)
Esther Heller - Food Standards Agency
Angela Rabess - Department of Trade and Industry
Stewart McEwen - Health and Safety Executive
Martin Williams -Welsh Assembly Government