Sector action leads to breakthrough in fight against sheep dip disposal fees

Work by sheep industry stakeholders in response to an exponential rise in dip disposal licence fees in England has resulted in a major breakthrough for mobile dipping contractors.

The Environment Agency announced higher fees for applying for and renewing sheep dip disposal licence early in 2018. The news came despite assertions from the sheep sector that increases of up to 590% were unjustifiable and had the potential to be highly damaging.

Plunge dipping is an essential tool in the fight against sheep parasites. The sector argues that anything which blocks the affordable treatment of such pests could potentially impact animal welfare.

Contractor exemption

A series of correspondence and meetings with Defra, the Environment Agency and the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) over many months, have resulted in the agency exempting contractors from the new fees to store dip.

A spokesman for the National Sheep Association (NSA) said it was an “important concession” but added that it still leaves the sheep sector with much to do to ensure farmers dipping sheep themselves do not have to pay the “indefensible fees”.

Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: “The individuals and groups involved in this work have gone to great lengths to increase understanding within the Environment Agency about what makes our industry tick.

“We cannot have a unilateral decision made to increase licence fees at the same time as other parts of the Government are working with farming organisations to urge farmers to increase use of dip and mobile dipping contractors to tackle sheep scab, a parasite that affects animal welfare and production.”

The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group is campaigning on sheep scab, promoting mobile dippers as a way for farmers to have their sheep treated using modern equipment that offers good operator safety, good sheep welfare, effective treatment and safe disposal of spent dip to ensure no environmental damage.

Lesley Stubbing of SCOPS said: “It is a big achievement for the Environment Agency to exempt contract dippers from needing to be fully permitted and charged for the spent dip they bulk up and store before disposal.

There are some straightforward provisos that will need to be complied with, but contract dippers can now bring spent dip back to their operating sites and store it until collection for licensed treatment or disposal.

The agreement reached between the Environment Agency and sheep stakeholder groups is specifically for contract operators temporarily storing spent sheep dip at a place controlled by the producer of the waste, pending collection or disposal.

However, it comes with certain conditions, which include:

  • That the dip has been diluted for use in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions at the place of use and is below hazardous waste thresholds.
  • That the total quantity of waste dip stored at any one time does not exceed 20,000L.
  • That the waste dip is stored in a bunded area with an impermeable base able to retain 110% of the largest container or 25% of the total volume that could be stored, whichever is the greater.
  • No waste dip is stored for longer than three months.
  • That the operator, while not obliged to inform the Environment Agency of their activities to store dip before disposal, has registered for a ‘waste carriers’ licence’ for the transport of spent dip back to their premises. These licences are free for operators only carrying waste they produce themselves and are available online.

Tom Dracup, NFU livestock adviser, said: “This is an important step forward for mobile dippers, but still leaves more to do on general dip disposal fees.

“We have secured the assurance of the Environment Agency that it will review these requirements – and so, as a group, will be writing to Ministers to request a moratorium on charges until this review is complete.

“We are also continuing to work with Defra on a long-standing proposal to increase efforts to tackle and ultimately eradicate sheep scab.”