Government announces proposals to reduce red tape for farmers

Farmers who maintain the best track records on environmental protection and animal welfare could earn the right to have fewer inspections, Jim Paice said today.

The Agriculture Minister was speaking as he unveiled the Government’s response to a report by the Farming Regulation Task Force, which looked at ways to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers and processors.

Risk-based inspections are just one way that the Government hopes to reduce red-tape for farmers, Paice said. Other options being explored include co-ordinating inspections to reduce the number of duplicate visits by different enforcement bodies, simplifying complex environmental requirements to give clearer guidance to farmers about the measures they need to take, and building a closer working partnership between government and industry.

“Where we can, we’re looking to free up those playing by the rules so they can get on with doing what they do best – running their farms,” said Paice. “If we want a successful and competitive farming industry then the rules and regulations need to be drawn up with farmers in mind. Most farmers want to do the right thing and push standards even higher – what we need to do is help them do that in as simple and effective way as possible.”

The National Farming Union (NFU) has welcomed the Government’s initial response as encouraging but warned that farmers wanted to see action sooner rather than later.

“In the face of the inevitable scepticism in the farming community, and with new examples of over-regulation...still seemingly cropping up almost every day, we really do need to start seeing actions that match the rhetoric. Delivery is the key,” said NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond.

Raymond added that the interim report is “a step in the right direction” but said that the Union wanted to see a clear timetable for implementation, with specific actions for Defra. “Most of all we need to see a step change in over-zealous regulation replaced by a system which encourages and rewards farmers for upholding the high standards expected,” he said.

The independent Farming Regulation Task Force, chaired by Richard Macdonald, published its report on 17 May 2011. It made than 200 recommendations covering the full range of the regulatory landscape that affects farming. One of these recommendations was to set up a group to consider the criteria for accepting meat inspection services by third parties, but this was rejected by the Board of the Food Standards Agency.