Farmers could be faced with huge clean-up bills or major fines after hundreds of cases of fly-tipping on agricultural land were reported to councils across the south east last year.

According to the latest figures from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) there were 79,307 fly-tipping incidents in the south east last year – 551 of which were on agricultural land.

Across the Slough and Windsor boroughs, there were 1,205 cases of fly-tipping, seven of which were on farmland in Windsor, and in the South Bucks district, there were 698 cases of fly-tipping, but none on agricultural land.

However, Will Kendrick, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers, said that the true scale of fly-tipping across the south east “is not reflected in the figures” as DEFRA statistics “exclude the majority of private-land incidents”.

Farmers who are victims of fly tipping are forced to pay for the removal of the waste – at an average of £1,000 per incident – and they are also responsible if the dumped waste damages the countryside.

Mr Kendrick, who advises farmers in the south east, said: “Fly-tipping is a blight on our countryside, but dumped waste is not only visually impactful and a nuisance – it can be a source of pollution and cause harm to humans, animals and the environment.

“This year’s DEFRA figures show that it is not only everyday household waste that gets dumped by fly tippers – thousands of incidents involve asbestos, clinical waste and chemical and fuel waste.

“So, farmers are not only have to fork out for clean-up costs but also have to worry about the danger it poses to themselves, their workers, their animals and their land.

“These fly tippers, both thoughtless individuals and unscrupulous ‘waste businesses’, don’t care that their irresponsible actions could lead to farmers being prosecuted under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“Innocent farmers have the choice of footing the clean-up bill or facing significant fines for not dealing with someone else’s mess.”

He also urged farmers to deter fly-tippers by making sure fields are gated and locked, if possible, and set up security lights and a camera to provide evidence if they do fall victim to the crime.

If a farmer discovers someone has dumped waste on their land, they are advised to record as many details as possible, take photos and report it to the council.

Mr Kendrick added: “Finally, and most importantly, make sure that any rubbish dumped on your land is disposed of properly and, if required, use a reputable, registered waste company to help with disposal.

“By failing to remove the waste or moving it on to public land, you will leave yourself open to prosecution and could face fines of tens of thousands of pounds.”