What are grandfather rights?
All pesticide users must be adequately trained, no matter what their age and qualifications. The law says that contractors who apply agricultural pesticides commercially, and all operators born after 31 December 1964, are required to have a certificate of competence. The right to apply pesticides without an operator’s certificate of competence, because the operator was born before 31 December 1964, is known as ‘grandfather rights’. A trained operator can therefore be someone who does not have a certificate of competence but who has attended some training courses and has “grandfather rights”.
Assurance schemes often require all spray operators to have undergone training regardless of whether or not they qualify for ‘grandfather rights’.
The Government recognises that both spraying technology and practice have developed significantly since ‘grandfather rights’ were instituted and that it is important for those spraying pesticides to be properly trained in their use. Your views are invited on any aspect of grandfather rights and particularly on the following questions:
Do you believe that grandfather rights should be phased out?
If so, over what period should they be phased out?
Do you think there is a case for maintaining some form of continuing derogation to deal with particular situations (such as particular types of farm) and, if so, what form might a new derogation take?
In addition information is required in relation to the numbers and the training requirements of farmers operating under this provision and whether the training capacity exists to allow for the removal of these rights and over what timescale.
Numbers of individuals with grandfather rights
In the Sprayer Practice Survey 2004 (carried out by the The Food and Environment Research Agencyfor the Voluntary Initiative) it was estimated that 9% of the arable and horticulture area was sprayed under grandfather rights. Grandfather rights are most commonly exercised on small farms and farms in the less arable area such as Northern Ireland, Wales and the North West. Approximately 24% of total arable holdings had someone working with grandfather rights while 7% of arable and horticulture holdings had a sole operator working under grandfather rights.
There are approximately 50,150 spray operators in the UK on farms with arable crops. If 7% of arable and horticulture holdings are under the sole control of an operator with grandfather rights, there are approximately 3000 sole operators on farms with arable crops who are working under grandfather rights.
A further 17% (8000 operators) are not sole operators so may not need to retrain.
There are no definitive figures for grassland, but ADAS estimates that there could be 16,000 operators working under grandfather rights. This figure is reasonable given that many grassland farmers use contractors. If all livestock farms are included (126,000 holdings) the grassland figure could be as high as 30,000 operators with grandfather rights.
This gives a total estimate of between 27,000 and 41,000 operators working under grandfather rights.
Cost of training
The cost of training and National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) testing is about £255 for each of PA1 (Foundation module) and PA2 (Ground Crop Spraying Module) certificates of competence, and in total takes around 3 days training plus 1 day assessment.
If grandfather rights were abolished at once:
for 27,000 spray operators to train to full PA2 standard the cost would be £25.6 million including fees and training time;
if the number of operators that need to retrain is the upper estimate of 41,000 operators, the cost would be £39 million.
If there was an adjustment period up to 2015 during which spray operators working under grandfather rights could retrain, around 40% of operators would naturally reach retirement age (65) before that date, assuming an even age distribution of those working under grandfather rights. Taking this number out of the calculations for the costs of removing grandfather rights:
the cost up to 2015 is between £15.75 million and £23.4 million, with annual costs of between £1.75 million and £2.6 million.
There may be an issue of availability of training courses under both of these circumstances.
Future decline in numbers
The proportion of operators with grandfather rights will naturally decline, however there appears to be still a significant proportion of arable and horticulture farms relying on sole operators with grandfather rights. Changes to the requirements would have an impact on those businesses, as will the length of any phasing-in periods if considered necessary.
Between the similar surveys of operators’ practices in 2001 and 2004, the proportion of the UK arable crops sprayed under grandfather rights declined from 22% to 9% and this trend is likely to continue. The rate of decline will be slowest in the infrequent user group such as the livestock farmers which is the biggest group but carries out little spraying.
Operators who were born in 1964 or before will be at least 41 years old now and so will all be approaching retirement age in the next twenty years.