THE Agriculture Department has confirmed that WA farmers can expect tougher legislation governing their chemical applications.
It comes in the wake of recent news that Australia is considering adopting Canadian measures to reduce spray drift from chemical use, which included spray chemical buffer zones and low drift nozzles.
Agriculture Department chemicals coordinator Peter Rutherford said there was a set of chemical management regulations in its proposed Agricultural Management Bill.
He said the regulations would closely follow the recommendations of the Criddle Report, compiled by the previous state government, which collected more than 50 submissions on chemical practices across WA.
The regulations include mandatory training for those applying chemicals, notification of neighbours on spraying schedules, record keeping and the adoption of a code of practice.
Mr Rutherford said there was no specific mention of buffer zones in the regulations, but there was in the code of practice.
"For low drift nozzles, I don't know whether it ever gets to that level of detail - but there is a reference to the use of appropriate equipment to minimise negative outcomes from spraying and that would obviously include things like spray nozzles," he said.
He said spray drift was an environmental and health issue, due to both direct exposure and through contamination of food supplies.
The regulations would bring WA into line with other states as there was very little legislation of WA chemical use at present.
One section, the Regulation of Pesticides in the Health Act, placed an onus on the complainant to prove ill health due to particular chemical applications.
The other, the Restricted Spraying Regulations, dated from 1960 and needed an update.
"The whole thrust of the Agricultural Management Bill's chemical regulations is that we believe everybody who applies chemicals commercially should take responsibility for where those chemicals go and what the outcomes for the public and the environment are," he said.
He said self-regulation would be encouraged but new offences would also be established.
"If people charged can show that they were following a code of practice at the time, then that would serve as a defence against that offence," he said.
Problems associated with spray drift were not widespread.
"But there's a lot more spraying going on than in the past, and people are becoming more aware of what chemicals are being applied around them and if those are going beyond the applied area," Mr Rutherford said.
He said responsible chemical users could continue to practice as normal.
"You're always going to get cowboys out there who couldn't care less about what they are applying and where it is going - they're the people we want to get," he said.
"The ordinary farmer who does the right thing, who looks at what chemicals they're applying and whether they're drifting into the neighbour's property or into the water, will have nothing to fear."
The Agricultural Management Bill has been developed over six years to combine 17 separate acts under the Agriculture Department's control, into one piece of legislation.
Mr Rutherford hoped the next state government would implement it.