Rules concerning the buying of rat bait are about to take a new turn and some farmers may soon find themselves unable to complete purchase. Peter Hollinshead reports.
Farmers who have become accustomed to popping into their local merchant to purchase rat bait when they need it will find they may be refused as from the beginning of next month.
That’s because, from April 1, new restrictions on the purchase of anticoagulants will start to apply to the three classes of farmers, pest controllers and gamekeepers who will need to show a certificate of competence to complete the purchase.
This applies to rodenticides which are labelled both to be sold to and used by professionals, and which also carry on the label the fact that they are for outside use.
However, purchase of professional products which are labelled for indoor use only will not require a certificate, and all amateur products, used both indoors and outdoors, will also be exempt.
Dr Alan Buckle, chairman of the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU), the body tasked with implementing the new regulations, warns that people who buy professional indoor-only products and put them down outdoors will be acting contrary to label instructions which will be an offence for which they could be prosecuted.
It is anticipated the new regulations will be phased in and there will be exceptions, possibly temporary, for certain classes of farmers.
For those who need a certificate, this can be achieved through a day’s training, followed by an exam. It is predicted to cost of the order of £100-150.
Others may decide on the DIY approach with an online briefing and test which will set individuals back £60. The certificate is expected to be lifelong although there are anticipated to be CPD require- ments attached in due course.
To pass the online test it says ‘you need to get 70% in the next 30 questions in order to receive the required certification’, but the small print does add ‘this test is a pay as you go approach and if you fail you will need to start and pay for the process again’.
To cover the transition period of the scheme’s introduction, there will be a phasing in period as shelves are cleared of ‘old label’ stock.
One of the big changes will rule out the routine long term baiting outside farm buildings which has been used as a precautionary approach.
This will mean tubs with the new stewardship labels on them will need the certificate to purchase from April this year, although the packs still not yet carrying that label, which is old stock, may be purchased up to the end of March next year provided the manufacturer has applied for stewardship.
So why the imposition of these new restrictions? According to Dr Buckle, the overriding pressure is to protect wild life and is being driven by Europe, through the HSE.
“Government has asked the industry to tighten up controls as to those who can buy rodenticides in the UK,” he said at the press briefing.
“The pressure for change has come from Europe and the HSE has been left with no choice but to do something.”
Referring to the present anticoagulants, he said: “They are candidates for substitution – and risk being banned – and the manufacturer has to justify why they are kept on the market, but if there is no viable alternative they can stay on.
“We are finding contamination in very many wildlife species such as barn owls and red kites, and in some species 90% of the them carry residues,” said Dr Buckle.
“The HSE says we have got to control use of the product and measure the effect of any controls as we have got to prove the measures are working.”
In addition some whole groups may be exempt. These are those who are members of an approved farm assurance scheme, which has among its standards a requirement for an audited programme of rodent pest control. For example these include schemes associated with Red Tractor, Agricultural Industries Confederation, British Egg Industry Council (Lion Eggs) and Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assurance Scheme.
But this may not be sufficient in the longer term as the CRRU says: “Schemes that become aligned will qualify as proof of competence for purchase of professional rodenticide products without date restriction, while members of non-aligned schemes will only have the farm assurance option available until a derogation agreed by HSE lapses in December 2017.”
To ascertain the effectiveness of the new regulations, the HSE will be monitoring the level of rodenticide in the barn owl which will be used as a sentinel species for all wildlife residues, and will be closely examining and recording anticoagulant levels each year in barn owls picked up as roadkill and the like.
One of the big concerns is the practice of putting rodenticide-baited boxes outside buildings as a precautionary means to pick up any early rat entry.
“Except as a justifiable last resort against clear and sustained threats to human or animal health, the UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime now rules out long term rodenticide baiting around the outside of farm buildings,” says the CRRU.
Dr Buckle said such stations should initially be baited with non-toxic material to gauge the species present, and if non-toxic bait is being taken, and if an inspection of droppings rules out mice, voles etc, he says it can then be replaced temporarily with rodenticide bait.
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