Farm supplier legal issues

A yellow forklift moving hay bales on a sunny dayThe following is an outline of some of the legislation which may be relevant to your business. The list is not exhaustive and highlights only the main areas that may apply. Your local authority will be able to give you further guidance on many important topics.

What licences does a farm supplier need?

The types of product you're likely to sell means you will need to obtain certain licences, registrations or approvals required under legislation such as:

  • the EU Feed Hygiene Regulation (183/2005) which requires your premises to be approved and registered if you sell animal feed. Registration is carried out by local authorities in Great Britain and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland
  • the Veterinary Medicines Regulations, which specify that animal medicines classified as POM-VPS or NFA-VPS can only be sold by a Suitably Qualified Person (as well as by a veterinarian or pharmacist). Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) retailers' premises must also be registered with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate
  • the Plant Varieties Act. You must enter into a licensing agreement with plant breeders if you plan to sell or produce their varieties of seed
  • the Plant Protection Products Regulations. If you store and supply agrochemicals (for example pesticides) and other chemical products you must register with the local authority environmental health department who will inspect the premises to ensure that chemicals are correctly stored. You must also obtain a BASIS Certificate of competence
  • if you produce 500kg or more of hazardous waste at a premises in Wales within a 12 month period you must register with Natural Resources Wales as a hazardous waste producer. You can find out more about hazardous waste producer registration on the Gov.uk website

More general licensing requirements include:

  • the possible requirement to register as a data user with the Information Commissioner's Office if you keep records of individuals' personal details. Since 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data
  • the Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act which requires you to hold an operator's licence if you drive a goods vehicle over 3.5 tonnes

The following is an outline of some of the legislation which may be relevant to your business. The list is not exhaustive and highlights only the main areas that may apply. Your local authority will be able to give you further guidance on many important topics.

Sale of animal medicines

Veterinary medicines regulations make all medicines for food-producing animals prescription only but allow Suitably Qualified Persons (SQPs), such as farm suppliers, to sell certain categories of these (POM-VPS) as well as certain medicines for non-food animals (NFA-VPS) as long as they hold a nationally recognised qualification. There are comprehensive details on the AMTRA website.

Sale of animal feed

Under EU Feed Hygiene Regulation (183/2005) you will need to register with your local authority (in Great Britain) or the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland if you sell animal feeds.

The labelling, marketing and composition of animal feed is covered by the Animal Feed Regulations, which replaced five existing pieces of legislation from 2010.

Selling pesticides

EU Regulation 1107/2009 prohibits the use of active substances in plant protection products unless they have been approved. The Pesticides Directorate website includes a link to the European Commission's database of approved active substances and also provides guidance on how to search it.

Three key neonicotinoid insecticides are banned for use on flowering crops and this is likely to be extended to non-flowering crops. These are lothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.

Selling chemicals

If you distribute or store chemicals then you'll be affected to a degree by the CLP Regulation that covers classification, labelling and packaging, although if you don't alter the chemicals in any way you can just rely on the classification and labelling information that is provided by your suppliers.

But if you do alter a chemical, you become responsible for classifying, labelling and packaging it.

As a supplier of chemicals, you'll also have certain responsibilities under the REACH Regulation to pass on information to your customers and back to suppliers.

There's detailed guidance on the CLP and REACH Regulations on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Substances that could be used to make explosives

There are special regulations in place to prevent substances that could potentially be used to make explosives getting into the wrong hands. Some substances, which would normally only be available from specialist suppliers, are regulated and can only be supplied to a member of the public who has a licence to obtain and possess them. Other substances, although not regulated, are nevertheless of potential concern. Examples of these, which are referred to as 'reportable substances', include ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate and calcium ammonium nitrate, any of which may be present in agricultural fertilisers. Products labelled with the 'skull and crossbones' hazard pictogram are also potentially of concern, although they are not classified as reportable under the regulations.

You must report any suspicious transactions (or disappearances due to theft) involving regulated or reportable substances to the police Anti-terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321. A transaction could be suspicious for various reasons, for example because the customer insists on paying cash and/or wants an unusually large quantity of a product containing a reportable substance.

There's more information for businesses about regulated and reportable substances on the Gov.uk website.

General

  • the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations regulate the usage, storage and sale of any potentially hazardous substances
  • the Environmental Protection Act and Hazardous Waste Regulations regulate the storage and disposal of controlled or hazardous waste (like pesticide residues and containers). This type of waste can only be transported by authorised carriers. (Contact your local Environment Agency office in England and Wales for further information and details of authorised carriers. In Northern Ireland, contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and in Scotland contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA))

Carrier bag charge

A 5 pence charge applies in England, but small and medium-sized businesses (with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees) are exempt. You can get detailed guidance from the gov.uk website.

Retailers in Wales and Scotland must charge customers at least 5 pence if they supply them with a single-use carrier bag. This applies to all types of single-use bag, whether they are made of plastic, paper or plant-based starch. There is detailed guidance on the Gov.Wales and Zero Waste Scotland websites.

In Northern Ireland retailers must charge customers a 5 pence levy on all bags with a retail price of less than 20 pence (including any bags that would otherwise be free of charge), whether they are single-use or reusable.

Health & Safety, fire

You must also make sure that you comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Health and safety legislation requires operators of machinery like HIAB lorry loaders and plant to be properly trained and qualified. Skills registration card schemes like the Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register (ITSSAR) enable employers to show that their operators are properly qualified.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:

Recruitment and employment contracts

Pay and pensions

Working time: hours, leave, flexible working

Employment policies

Sickness and sick pay

Maternity, paternity and adoption

Discrimination

Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Insurance for a farm supplier

Contact an insurer and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (for example on the way back from a supplier, or delivering to customers)
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • employers liability
  • public and products liability
  • motor insurance (for delivery vehicles)

NFU Mutual is a popular insurer with those operating in the agriculture sector and offers insurance policies tailored to the needs of different types of business.

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