By Robert Harris

GOVERNMENT must introduce measures to boost rural regeneration quickly or many farm businesses will fail, says the Country Land and Business Association.

The CLA will launch a hard hard-hitting report next week which urges ministers to cut bureaucracy and encourage diversification on farms.

“The strain on many businesses is at breaking point and the need to open avenues to recovery has never been greater,” says CLA chief executive, Mark Pendlington.

“This report contains practical proposals that government and authorities can take to remove obstacles to enterprise and actively encourage regeneration.”

The report has already landed on the desks of DEFRA ministers and Lord Haskins, the labour peer asked by Tony Blair to rejuvenate rural areas hit by foot and mouth disease.

It blames the planning system as the main obstacle to progress, and criticises funding mechanisms as “bureaucratic and slow”.

The loss of agricultural exemption to rates remains a considerable disincentive to diversification, and rural businesses need to be treated as one trading unit for tax purposes, says the report.

It also calls for better promotion of tourism activities, more incentives to boost energy crop production, and more help for food processing and marketing.

“The need to bring farmers closer to their market will be crucial,” says the CLA.

“But there are a number of issues that must be addressed, including a review of food regulations and the impact of imported food not subject to similar constraints.”

  • Rural Regeneration: A Policy Framework for Business Diversification: Free copies will be available from the CLA (020 7460 7934)