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The Voluntary Initiative: Past and Future - conference papers

farming with a tractor

This item first appeared in 2007

Presentations from the 29 January 2007 meeting held in York

Over recent years there has been considerable concern regarding the use of pesticides in UK farming systems and their effects on water quality and biodiversity. A number of solutions were suggested, with a Pesticide Tax being a front runner within green organisations and the UK government. Such a tax would necessarily increase the costs of farming and, as a consequence, the price of home grown produce. In January 2000, the UK Government announced the decision to suspend the concept of a pesticide tax in favour of a partnership approach with the agrochemical industry – producers, advisers and farmers. The package of measures, later named the Voluntary Initiative (VI), was implemented in April 2001. The Voluntary Initiative Steering Group first agreed indicators and associated interim and final targets for the VI in December 2002. These were reviewed in March 2004 and refined targets were published in April 2004.

The partners of the VI are many, covering government bodies, representatives of the agrochemical industry and pressure groups. The objectives are to improve stewardship of pesticides to such an extent that a measurable improvement to the environment will result. Key components of the VI were maintaining and improving the quality of water, ensuring the maintenance of high levels of biodiversity and training with a view to changing the behaviour of those involved in farming at all levels.

Environmental indicators, such as improving water quality and biodiversity, can take a long time to change. The VI targets recognise this and use surrogates such as the National Register of Spray Operators (NRoSO), the National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS) and Crop Protection Management Plans (CPMP) to track progress towards the wider environmental improvements sought by the VI.

After an initial five-year trial period, it is timely to assess the effectiveness of the VI, in order to inform future pesticide policy. This meeting looked at the highlights of the VI, its evaluation and its potential impact on defining pesticide policy in the coming years.

Conference programme
10.00   Chairman’s Welcome and Introduction
Barry Dent, Chairman of the Voluntary Initiative
10.10   Overview of the VI (pdf 1.4Mb)
Patrick Goldsworthy, The Voluntary Initiative Secretariat, Huntingdon
10.25   The Role of Farm Assurance (pdf 50Kb)
Jonathan Tipples, Assured Food Standards, Tonbridge
10.50   Making Plans to Deliver Change (pdf 2.5Mb to follow)
Caroline Drummond, LEAF, Stoneleigh
11.40   Protection of Water and the VI Target Catchments (pdf 500Kb)
Bob Breach, Water Quality and Environmental Consultancy, Solihull
12.05   Protecting Biodiversity (pdf 2.7Mb to follow)
Jim Densham, RSPB, Sandy
13.50   Evaluation of the VI (pdf 75Kb)
Richard Glass, Central Science Laboratory, York
14.20   CPMPs, ELS and Defra’s Catchment Sensitive Farming Initiative (pdf 2.2Mb)
Martin Froment, Natural England, Guildford
14.50   The Pesticides Policy Perspective (pdf 40Kb)
Adrian Dixon, Pesticides Safety Directorate, York
15.20   Where to from here - View from the VI (pdf 25Kb to follow)
Barry Dent, Chairman of the Voluntary Initiative

 

This conference was held with the support of the Central Science Laboratory

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