Organisers of tractor road runs across the UK fear their events will be unsustainable after new rules banning the use of red diesel starts on April 1.
Tractor road runs help raise essential funds for charities and provide a welcome social outing for farmers, contractors and enthusiasts.
However, new HMRC diesel rules that come into play on April 1 ban the use of red diesel for tractor road runs and ploughing matches.
The major diesel use changes are a result of the government’s decision to remove the entitlement to use rebated diesel and biofuels from most sectors from April 2022 to help meet its climate change and air quality targets.
These tax changes, said the government, will ensure that most users of rebated diesel use fuel taxed at the standard rate for diesel from April 2022, like motorists, which more fairly reflects the harmful impact of the emissions they produce.
The government said: “Restricting use of rebated diesel and biofuels, including marked oils, will also help to ensure that the tax system incentivises users of polluting fuels like diesel to improve the energy efficiency of their vehicles and machinery, invest in cleaner alternatives, or just use less fuel.”
Agriculture is one of very few sectors that was further permitted to use red diesel, but the ‘agricultural use’ definition has been severely tightened.
HMRC permits the use of red diesel for vehicles and machinery used in agriculture, horticulture, fish farming and forestry. Excavator operators can also use it if the job is agricultural but if it’s on a construction site the tank must be flushed out and white diesel used.
This week during a webinar hosted by the Ulster Farmers Union, HMRC confirmed the same rules apply to tractor road runs and ploughing matches.
Michael Lyttle from HMRC said: “These wouldn’t be acceptable uses of red diesel.”
The Scottish Vintage Tractor and Engine Club chairman, Bryan Williamson said the new rules were a blow and would affect the charity events.
“We do one major road run, two to three ploughing matches and then there’s the main event rally at Farming Yesteryear at Scone Palace,” he said.
“About half our members are farmers and the rest have no access to red diesel anyway, but if farmers have to drain tanks and refill with white diesel it’s a big effort.”
National tractor runs can attract hundreds of vehicles, and one of the biggest – the Livingstone Christmas Tractor Road Run in Northern Ireland’s draws 750 tractors.
Stanley Livingstone, who helps run the event, said: “We have been holding our event for ten years now and have raised over £650,000 for charities. It’s a total disgrace if tractor drivers will be forced to use white diesel.
“They simply will stop coming to the runs and it will be the charities that suffer. Northern Ireland folk are very generous with their time and money when it comes to charities. We never know when we may need one of them in our lives.”