Official controls for PPPs – prepare for a farm visit

Chris Hartfield

Chris Hartfield

NFU Senior Regulatory Affairs adviser

Two people walking down a path alongside a field

Farm visits are the next step for plant protection product official controls. NFU senior regulatory affairs adviser Chris Hartfield outlines the process.

Many members see new official controls requirements for PPPs (plant protection products) as doubling-up on activity they already do.

Here, we’ll take a look at how the NFU has lobbied Defra to factor in assurance scheme membership and earned recognition, and describe the next steps in the process.


The Official Controls (Plant Protection Products) Regulation 2020 (OCR) came into force in June 2020, as part of retained EU law. It requires all PPP distributors and users (in forestry, amenity and agriculture) to register with the government.

Defra aims to support businesses with their compliance with existing PPP legislation, with the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) delivering a risk-based programme of official inspection of this compliance. However, members are rightly concerned this will add burdens by duplicating farm assurance inspection. The NFU believes earned recognition, which would significantly reduce the inspection burden for farmers in farm assurance schemes, should have been in place on day one of the OCR process being rolled out.

However, to meet the regulatory deadlines, Defra pressed ahead and implemented OCR with little consultation.

Subsequent NFU lobbying resulted in clearer Defra guidance, a change to registration details to recognise assurance scheme membership, and a commitment to the future inclusion of earned recognition.

Registering with Defra

Farmers using pesticides must register, even if they hire a contractor to spray for them, because they have a legal duty to make sure the PPPs are used properly. Contractors should also register separately. The businesses using PPPs needs to register with Defra, not every individual on farm who uses PPPs.

Pesticide enforcement officer visits

The next step of the OCR process is for HSE PEOs (pesticide enforcement officers) to carry out visits to check how well PPP users are complying with PPP law. Such visits have already been happening for the PPP supply chain, and for PPP users in the amenity sector. In November 2023, PEOs will start a risk-based programme of visiting farms.

They are likely to visit a few hundred farms during the coming months – and the main criteria for selecting the farms to be visited include:

  • Farm business is 150 acres or more
  • Farm business is not currently registered as a PPP user under the OCR
  • Farm business has not been visited by HSE in past five years.

If you have registered as a PPP user, you will not be targeted for inspection in this initial phase of farm visits.

Most PEO visits will be carried out by appointment, but some may be unannounced, and they are likely to take two to three hours. The visit will focus on the management of PPPs, looking at storage, handling, application equipment, record keeping and LERAPs (Local Environment Risk Assessments for Pesticides). A common issue PEOs are finding is the storage of unauthorised PPPs. Ahead of visits, they are recommending farmers check stocks and dispose of unauthorised PPPs appropriately.

Earned recognition

The NFU knows farmers see this process as a duplication of inspection activity already happening under farm assurance schemes, and has continually pushed Defra to include earned recognition as part of the process, to reduce the burden of inspection.

Defra is now regularly engaging with the NFU on OCR, and has committed to including earned recognition. But this won’t happen in time for this first round of farm visits.

You can find instructions on registering online at: GOV.UK | PPPs: register as a professional user.

More information about what to expect from a pesticide enforcement officer visit can be found at: GOV.UK | PEO visit.

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