FARMERS WILL now be exempt from paying an extra £200 per tonne tax on their silage wrap, when a new Plastic Packaging Tax comes in to force in April.

The UK Treasury confirmed that the plastic film used by farmers as a vital part of the fermentation process for making silage will be exempt from the new HMRC guidelines.

NFU Scotland has warmly welcomed the announcement after successfully lobbying MPs and UK Government departments, alongside NFU England and Wales, for a change in rules.

Whilst silage film falls within the scope of the packaging tax, the Treasury has accepted that it is a highly specialised product, the primary purpose of which is to enable the fermentation process needed to produce silage.

Read more: Farm plastic recycling: The future of bale wrap is crystal clear

NFU Scotland’s Environmental Resources Policy Manager Sarah Cowie said: “We welcome this decision that properly recognises the integral role that plastic wrap plays in the production of silage. With input prices soaring, avoiding a taxation cost of £200 per tonne of wrap is also very welcome at this time.

“Appropriate alternatives to plastic wrap have yet to be developed but farmers and crofters remain committed to farming in the most environmentally friendly way," she continued. "One that sees widespread industry uptake of the schemes already available to collect silage film from farms, crofts and collection centres and recycle it. More widely, NFU Scotland would like to see support for research and development of affordable and technically suitable silage films for the future produced with more recycled plastic content or produced from alternatives to plastic,” she urged.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross welcomed the u-turn from the UK Government, having described the plans by HMRC to hit silage film with a tax as 'completely wrong'. 

“Farmers including those in Moray would have been hugely impacted by this tax which was deeply unfair," said Mr Ross. "Coming from a farming background and having taken the plastic off of many bales over the years, I know how crucial it is for our industry.

“You simply cannot produce silage without easy access to silage film so I’m glad the government has listened to MPs who raised concerns along with NFU Scotland and others.

“It was misguided to impose this tax on silage film in the first place given how the agriculture sector plays a very small part in plastic use across the country," he concluded, pointing out that agriculture currently accounts for 3% of plastic use across the UK, with silage film only a small proportion of that.