While EU rules and regulations are often seen as a nightmare for farmers, there are three current consultations/changes that we believe you simply can’t afford to ignore.
These consultations/new requirements could affect how you run your business and ultimately your profitability. At a glance, they are:
- Speed limit consultation. The Department of Transport’s consultation ‘Examining the Maximum Speed Limit for Tractors on Public Roads’ launched in November 2013 and is due to close at the end of January 2014. It focuses on the maximum weights of agricultural trailers and the maximum speed limit of tractors. Although the maximum speed limit for conventional tractors (with or without a trailer) is 40mph at the moment, there are certain restrictions that reduce this speed limit to 20mph. The consultation is in response to stakeholders requests to raise the 20mph limit to fall in line with other EU states, which are currently at 25mph (and to improve road safety). The ultimate goal of this raised speed limit is to increase productivity and reduce costs, both of which should serve to increase the competitiveness and profitability of the farming community. It is important to watch out for the outcome of this consultation, so you can make sure you are aware of the speed limits your vehicles are required to adhere to.
- The possibility of new vehicle tests. EU proposals to standardise tractor and trailer legislation across all states has been rejected, thanks to the farming Unions acting as the voice of farmers. Had this proposal gone ahead, it would have meant the introduction of annual MOT style tests for tractors capable of travelling at the maximum permissible speeds and weighing between 750kg and 3.5t. These tests would have been required on any vehicle 4 years after its manufacture. Although this EU-wide legislative change has gone away for the time being, it is reasonable to expect that the Department for Transport is likely to bring in some form on voluntary annual test for vehicles should the increased speed limits described at point 1 above be approved and again, this is something worth keeping an eye on.
- IPM administration. As we all know the EU is pushing for reduced reliance on pesticides. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is about controlling pests and diseases in an environmentally friendly way. The whole notion of IPM is that it encourages the use, where possible, of natural pest control practices instead of chemical solutions, but where that isn’t possible, in addition to chemical products, to reduce the overall environmental effect. New rules came into play on 1 January of this year regarding IPM and are already having an impact. While most farmers will be adopting the principles of IPM, from the beginning of 2014, the government is going to be required to confirm that UK farmers are adhering to the notion of IPM. When it comes down to the individual farm level, any farmer who completes the LEAF audit ‘ticks the new boxes’ required and won’t be facing additional administration. However, anyone who doesn’t already adhere to this scheme should prepare themselves for a new plan expected to launch around the end of February 2014. This plan is being developed by the NFU and will be known as the IPMP. When it is launched, this plan will replace the CPMP and will allow farmers to demonstrate their adherence to the basic principles of IPM.
These are just 3 of the topics that are on the farming horizon right now that we believe could impact on either your practices or your profitability. If you’d like to discuss any other topical issues you’re facing feel free to give us a call.