A promise by DEFRA that it will reduce the burden of red tape on farming and give clearer guidance on forthcoming legislation has been generally welcomed by farm leaders.

But concern has been expressed at the lack of regulations so far identified for attention and at plans to introduce levies to share the costs associated with an outbreak of disease.

Called Partners for Success, the new farm regulation and charging strategy for England was presented on Monday (28 November) by junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach.

The discussion document proposes ideas such as shifting responsibility for reporting cattle movements from farmers to livestock markets, reviewing assurance schemes to end duplication and simplifying information requests for the June census.

Lord Bach explained that the new approach was not about ending the cycle of regulation, but about introducing regulation that is better thought-out, more effective and more efficient.

“We want to free farmers to do what they do best,” he said.

Tim Bennett, NFU president, said the strategy was good news as it signalled a new direction for government and a willingness to consider alternatives to regulation, such as voluntary schemes, training and education.

But Mr Bennett stressed he was unhappy about the prospect of farmers being charged a disease levy, as the government had responsibilities here too.

Pointing to bovine tuberculosis as an example, he said farmers can only do so much to reduce the risk of disease spread.

DEFRA also had to ensure that any disease levy is risk-based, he said.

“Flat rate levies are no incentive to risk reduction.

They must be risk-based.”

Ian Campbell, regions manager for the National Pig Association, said the pig sector had in the past found itself on the receiving end of damaging regulation.

“DEFRA is to be applauded for their work on better regulation and will receive all the support available from the pig sector in shaping the future legislative climate,” he said.

But Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn said he was sceptical.

“I can’t recall the amount of times either in this job, or my last with the Country Land and Business Association, that we’ve heard DEFRA promise to end the cycle of regulation,” he said.

“Given what we are going through at the moment with cross-compliance, the single farm payment and the Water Framework Directive I am somewhat sceptical about government intentions to cut red tape.”

Fwi link Have your say on red tape at www.fwi.co.uk/talkingpoint