HMRC issued guidance over Christmas that listed silage wrap as ‘packaging’ for the first time, and subject to the Plastic Packaging Levy. Treasury officials confirmed the change in early January.
The NFU challenged the decision in briefings to MPs and during a meeting between NFU President Minette Batters and Treasury Minister, Helen Whatley.
While strongly supportive of efforts to reduce farm plastics, the NFU had stressed that the primary role of silage wrap was to ensure silage fermentation, which exempted it from the packaging levy. The NFU also argued that the function of silage wrap made more recycled or biodegradable wraps impractical.
In a letter of response to the NFU, the Treasury said: ‘Following further careful analysis, HMRC has confirmed that silage film falls under an exemption.
‘Representations made by you and others have demonstrated that (it) is a highly specialised product, the primary purpose of which is to enable fermentation.’
Costs would fall on farmers
At an earlier Westminster Hall debate, Amber Valley MP, Nigel Mills, said the proposed reclassification had come at short notice.
“Industries have not prepared for it and the costs will fall directly on farmers at a very difficult time,” he said.
He added that while nobody would argue against the aims of the new tax, its application in this case risked undermining voluntary recycling efforts by many farmers, who have been paying around £60 per tonne for used wrap collection. Adding extra costs could reduce participation in such schemes, he said.
Rethink was needed
NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts had also called for a rethink, noting that coffee pods and boil in the bag rice packets were exempt from the tax, despite often proving far harder to recycle and clear alternatives being available.
He added: “The NFU would like government to support improvements to domestic recycling of more contaminated plastic feedstocks such as silage wrap.
“This could improve the circular waste economy and minimise costs for recycling plastics used on farms.
“In the longer term, we are also calling for further support to develop affordable, technically suitable silage films produced with more recycled content, or from bio-based alternatives.”
Timeline: How the NFU saved British farming £4million in just over one month
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