23 November 2001

Government carries on with its plans for compulsory licence

By FW reporters

THE government has stepped up plans to force farmers to obtain licences to farm despite a mixed response from within the industry.

Ministers are seriously discussing a whole-farm certification scheme which would combine the plethora of inspections faced by farmers. The government believes a "total certification process" may boost health, welfare and environment standards.

Lord Whitty became the latest high-ranking minister to speak out about the poor state of some farms during a BBC Radio interview on Monday (Nov 19). Farms standards were "variable up and down the country", he said.

The idea backed organisations, including the Farm Animal Welfare Council, some veterinary societies and conservation groups. A DEFRA spokesman claimed the Meat and Livestock Commission also supported licensing. But an MLC spokesman said licensing all farms would be "unworkable".

Chris Lewis, a past president of the Sheep Veterinary Society, said the plan would be a good one if it was done properly and reduced red tape by reducing the number of farm inspections. "Foot-and-mouth has shown there are number of farmers that are a disgrace. The others will fly through it," he said.

The proposal was also backed by the Royal Agricultural Society of England. Speaking at the Grain 2001 event at Stoneleigh, its director, Mike Calvert, said he was broadly in favour of licensing so long as it covered the whole food chain, including imports.

Former Devon NFU chairman and beef farmer Ian Pettyfer said his holding was already inspected once a year so licensing would involve little extra time or cost.

But NFU president, Ben Gill, claimed the scheme would generate more red tape. "There is always room for improvement, but there is not justification for another tier of bureaucracy," he said. &#42