5 July 2002

Border adds to red tape tangle

MOST farmers would agree that keeping up with paperwork is one of their biggest headaches.

But what if your farmland was split between two different countries? That is the situation faced by Dougie Watkin, whose farm sits right on the border between England and Scotland.

Mr Watkin says he lives in constant fear of contravening rules imposed by DEFRA or its Scottish counterpart, the Scottish Executive. He believes his best form of defence is to write down everything he does in the smallest detail and keep both parties fully informed of his every move.

"I worry all the time that I am doing the wrong thing," he says. "Neither two systems are exactly the same. That is not even counting the fact that individual officials on both sides have their own ideas about the interpretation of the rules."

And when it comes to a 3.2ha (8-acre) stretch of grass he rents, the problems Mr Watkins has at East Newburn farm, Berwick, turn into a nightmare.

"The field is mostly surrounded by water and sits slap bang in the middle of the River Tweed on the border. That means that the south side is in England and the north side comes under Scottish rule," he says. "I normally just duplicate the paperwork and keep animal movement records for both offices."

If he were forced to choose between the two, Mr Watkin reckons he would prefer the whole farm to come under the Scottish Executive regulations. That is mainly because Scotland has retained many of its regional agricultural offices, while in England DEFRA has closed a number of its smaller centres.

Having officials who live and work locally was of particular help during the foot-and-mouth crisis, although Mr Watkins sheep and cattle had to be culled last April because of the disease.

"The Scottish staff knew what I was talking about when I mentioned a particular area," says Mr Watkin. &#42

On border patrol… Dougie Watkin has to deal with DEFRA and the Scottish Exectutive.

&#8226 Norham, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.

&#8226 171ha (425 acres) grassland holding.

&#8226 500 Mules.

&#8226 300 Scottish Blackface sheep.

&#8226 150 Suffolk cross ewes.

NE FARMING

&#8226 Farm numbers There are 25,732 agricultural holdings in the north-east, Yorkshire and Humberside region. The workforce totals more 54,000 people, of which just over 17,000 are full-time farmers. Some 18,000 farmers are part-time.

&#8226 Land About 1m hectares (2.4m acres) of land is owned, compared with 708,848ha (1.7m acres) of land rented.

&#8226 Arable Cereals account for 562,018ha, (1.3m acres) with 22,757ha (56,232 acres) of potatoes. The region has a total of 630,336ha (1.5m acres) of crops and fallow land, plus 113,848ha (281,318 acres) of land in set-aside.

&#8226 Grassland There are 602,622ha (1.4m acres) of managed grassland and 289,056ha (714,257 acres) of rough grazing.

&#8226 Cattle The dairy herd is made up of 145,057 cows and the beef herd numbers 160,621 animals.

&#8226 Sheep The total flock is 4.2m animals, which includes a breeding flock of 1.9m ewes.

&#8226 Pigs and poultry The pig breeding herd consists of 163,576 sows, a total of 1.6m animals altogether. Total fowl numbers add up to 14.5m birds.

Source: DEFRA June Census 2001. Latest figures available.