FEGGA: EU Pesticide Update

From the beginning, FEGGA has been firmly committed to the European golf advocacy campaign towards the EU regarding the proposed regulation on the use of Plant Protection Products on golf courses.

In March, right after our annual conference, FEGGA joined “the Collaborative Platform” consisting of EGA (chair), R&A and European Tour Group. The EGA is the European golf business key representative organization to the EU. FEGGA have participated in all meetings and discussions in this forum.

After joining the collaborative platform, the FEGGA board very quickly decided to contribute to the financing of two EGA proposed phases for dealing with the EU regulation:

Phase 1 was for the industry to submit an Impact Assessment Report and a Roadmap. The impact Assessment Report describes how the industry see the adverse effects from the legislation on the industry if implemented as proposed. The STRI and Chemservice was appointed the job to write this report. It is quite a substantial work conducted within a very short time frame and the FEGGA board would like to commend the two companies for their work and in particular Christian Spring, the lead contributor from the STRI. The GEO Foundation was commissioned the job to create a roadmap. The outcome is a strong and comprehensive European Golf – Turfgrass Sustainability Road Map that describes what golf already has achieved in sustainability and what opportunities there still exist and how to achieve them.

The final versions have just been released and they are attached to this mail.

Phase 2 is concerned with engaging a public affair agency to consult and advice the collaborative platform and to represent the European Golf business in Brussels when the EGA is not available. After a brief tender process, BCW was appointed the job. This phase will end when the final version of the legislation has been decided in Brussels.

From the onset FEGGA has taken a position against a full ban of the use of pesticides on golf courses. This industry is not ready for a step like this in a foreseeable future. However, this FEGGA board doesn’t believe that the result from the negotiations with the EU will be, that the use of pesticides on golf courses will remain as it is today. A dramatic reduction is a realistic outcome.

A dramatic reduction would mean, that the final EU pesticide regulation will be so radical that many traditional practices and behaviors will be left behind and new must be tried, adapted, and invented. This fact will for many years mean, that it is unrealistic to think that golf courses will look and perform the way they did before the legislation. To make the situation even more complex, you can add the fight for water, the fight for land, biodiversity crisis and climate change.

The FEGGA board don’t see any indicators of that golfers are about to change the way they perceive how a golf course should look like or should perform. If golfers don’t like what they are paying for they will either leave the sport or complain so much that it will seriously affect the working conditions for all club staff, especially the greenkeepers.

This interim phase will be very hurtful to the golf sector. At some stage in the future, the business will find some kind of new balance, realistically with lower participation and lower total turn-over. If the industry doesn’t seriously address this interim phase, it can become permanent. But it is this FEGGA board belief, that with the right initiatives and the right commitment the golf sector can avoid being stuck in such a depressed situation permanently, but instead move into a new situation where the golf sector regains the participation and its economic strength, but at the same time be much more on par with all the critically issues we face.

Both within the collaborative platform as well as outside this group, FEGGA is heralding the following initiatives to be crucial for the golf sector:

  1. Data collection. The EGA must demand from all its members, that golf facilities gather exact data on the use of pesticides and the data is submitted on an annual basis to relevant authorities. The submitted data must be legally binding for greenkeeper as well as for the golf facilities owner or chairman of the board of directors.
  2. Knowledge. The golf business needs to step up and invest in well-coordinated, well-funded and sustained turfgrass research. The role model is the Scandinavian Turfgrass Research Foundation. Successful for over 15 years, funded by the respective federations members and with co-funding from industry partners and public sources. FEGGA has earlier proposed the foundation of similar institutions for central Europe and South Europe.
  3. Education. Greenkeeper education across Europe is generally underfunded, not updated and lack ambition. Turfgrass research is moving forward with the times, but there exist a knowledge gap and the greenkeepers is lacking behind in technology adaptation.
  4. Communications. The interim phase will need very good and strong communications to golfers of what to expect and how things will be in the future. The communications purpose is two-fold: firstly, to keep golfers playing golf, but secondly, to avoid professional greenkeepers leaving the industry due to worsened working conditions and lack of recognition.

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