CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - Farmers win pesticide tax adjournment

Client: Crop Protection Association



PR Team: In-house and Hill & Knowlton



Campaign: Pesticide tax campaign



Timescale: 1999 - ongoing



Budget: Approx. pounds 50,000 per annum



The Crop Protection Association (CPA) represents around 50 British

manufacturers and distributors of crop protection products, who overall

generate pounds 480m in the domestic market and pounds 1bn in

exports.



Labour's 1997 election manifesto pledged an environmental tax on crop

protection products. Three years ago, the CPA set up a government

relations department.



In 1999, the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions

(DETR) commissioned a study to examine how a tax might be implemented.

The Government asked the CPA if it could devise an alternative

approach.



Objectives



To use lobbying and media activity to persuade the Government not to

introduce a tax on crop protection products.



Strategy and Plan



The CPA formed an alliance behind the scenes with farming unions, the

CBI and key figures in food processing. They formed the Pesticide Tax

Steering Group to co-ordinate political activity. Overall guidance came

from Hill & Knowlton.



In April 2000 the CPA delivered its first set of proposals, and the DETR

put these out to consultation. The Government said the proposal had not

taken into account the views of environmental groups and did not 'use

the language of now'. The CPA and H&K drew up its proposals in a

readable and glossy format and resubmitted it.



The Ministry of Agriculture was against the tax and the DETR was for it.

The CPA mounted a lobbying campaign, holding meetings with MPs in

Westminster, Cardiff and Edinburgh.



Recognising the need to enliven what could be seen as a dry tax issue,

MPs were sent a sample of hops, then a bread roll with literature

explaining how a tax would affect production of hops and wheat and the

prices of derivative products.



With the pre-Budget statement approaching in the autumn and no word from

the Government, the CPA decided to be pro-active. It met with

environmental groups - such as the Environment Agency and RSPB - that

were campaigning for the tax and analysed on what points compromises

could be brokered. It delivered a third set of proposals to the

Government in October, proposing a voluntary package of measures.



A low-budget media campaign ran alongside the lobbying. Advertorials

were placed in The House magazine and New Statesman, and press releases

were sent to the farming and lobbying press.



The media backed the issue, with The Daily Telegraph featuring a story

on the wider implications a tax would have on the food industry.



Measurement and Evaluation



The CPA has no formal way of evaluating its campaign, other than the

fact that it succeeded in staving off the tax's introduction.



Results



The Chancellor announced in this month's Budget that a tax on crop

protection products would not be introduced.



The CPA's amended proposals included acceptance of the RSPB's request

for crop protection management plans , and a structured approach to

biodiversity, including the appointment of the first biodiversity

officer in the industry.



The CPA believes the campaign has brought the industry together and that

it has allowed the CPA to become as a major player among farming bodies.



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