UK govt. unraveling farming 'red tape'

by Bryan Salvage
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LONDON – Work will begin immediately to cut red-tape in farming to reduce administrative burdens faced by UK farmers and food producers, announced Agriculture Minister Jim Paice. His bureaucracy-busting promise was made as the independent Farming Regulation Task Force presented its recommendations.

Following an extensive review of all regulations that affect farmers and food producers and the way they are implemented, the study makes more than 200 recommendations.

“We expect our farmers and food producers to maintain the highest standards, but the way to get them to achieve those standards isn’t to wrap them up in red tape – we need to free them from unnecessary burdens,” Paice said. “We must trust in the industry’s ability to produce our food, manage our countryside and contribute to our economic recovery.

Paice asked the task force to explore how they can move from regulations that focus on process to those that achieve the best end result. “We will continue to defend our high standards for environmental management, animal welfare and food safety,” he said. “I am particularly interested in the recommendations to allow industry to earn our trust and reward good practice with less frequent inspections.

“We have already identified a number of areas from the report where we can take immediate action, such as reducing the paperwork required under nitrate regulations and moving towards reporting all pig and cattle movement online,” he added. “I’m also pleased to announce the creation of a new Strategic Regulatory Scrutiny Panel, tasked with challenging and advising us on the way we think about regulation.”

In the longer-term, Paice said his priority will be to cut the unnecessary paperwork that farmers and food producers have to deal with and, wherever possible, move remaining paperwork online.

Other areas where early action will be explored include:

  • Applying the principals of simplifying and removing duplication to animal welfare inspections — the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) hopes to consult soon on options in this area.
  • Finding ways to improve record-keeping on farms in Nitrates Vulnerable Zones, for example, by exempting organic farmers from record-keeping requirement.
  • Changing aspects of the six-day standstill arrangements so that they will no longer apply to animals moving directly between farms.
  • Rationalizing allocating County Parish Holding numbers (CPH), the system by which individual holdings are identified and allocated to farmers, so that the same rules apply to all species.
  • Move away from paper-based movement reporting for sheep, to introducing an industry-owned database.
  •  Abolishing the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) links and Sole Occupancy Agreements (SOAs), which provide specific exemptions to movement reporting and six-day standstills for farm animals, but add unnecessary complications to an already complex system.

Next, the government plans to review the Task Force’s other recommendations and publish an initial response this autumn with a full and final response early in 2012.

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