DEFRA has set out a plan detailing how it intends to cut red tape for farmers which includes ideas such as simplifying the annual census forms.

Efforts are being across government to cut the administrative burden of regulation across all businesses by more than £2bn.

As part of this, DEFRA has published a simplification plan, Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens, which it believes will cut the burden of regulation by 30% – equating to about £158m – by 2010.

DEFRA estimates that it has over 700 regulations currently in force. But the department has also made a commitment to move towards more risk-based regulation and to think of alternative ways to achieve policy objectives.

The simplification proposals suggested include:

• Negotiating for the removal of set-aside during the CAP Health Check 2008
• Delivery of a revised RB209 in Spring 2008
• 2007 Single Farm Payment claim forms to be pre-populated to reduce time taken to complete
• Review of UK and EU seeds and plant breeder’s rights rules
• Simplification of cross-compliance scheme literature
• 2007 June Census form to be sent to fewer farmers and questions to be reduced.
• Negotiating the removal of the need for Fruit, Vegetable and Potato (FVP) growers to hold authorised entitlements
• Amendments to the Cattle Identification Records to allow passports to be issued for late applications where supported by a DNA test

Peter Kendall, NFU president, said he was pleased to see a more open-minded approach to reducing regulatory burdens.

“It is not just costs alone that mean regulations are squeezing the lifeblood out of farm businesses, but also the time it takes to complete forms and the lack of clarity about why these regulations matters to farming.”