THE WHOLE Farm Approach, the new farm self-appraisal scheme, will be launched in September next year, DEFRA project leader Ray Anderson announced at The Royal Show on Sun (July 4).

This DEFRA project is supported by the NFU because it has the potential of reducing red tape, preventing un-coordinated and overlapping farm inspections and integrating with existing delivery mechanisms such as farm assurance and environmental audits.

The information generated by the scheme will also allow DEFRA targeted farm inspections based on risk.

A CD-ROM pilot is being trialled at the moment, and at the end of July an online pilot will be tested.

By the middle of 2005, complete data on customers, land and livestock from those who have taken part in the pilot should be gathered, a year ahead of the full launch of the scheme.

“From our perspective, this is an advantageous business tool that will help farmers understand the regulatory requirements within which they work and also to deal with them more efficiently,” said NFU director general Richard Macdonald.

He emphasised that the potential of the scheme to cut red tape will depend on how many farmers who sign up to it.

The scheme is voluntary, but farmers will be encouraged to take part.

“Our aim is that 30% of farmers will have tried this in the first year and that 50% will regularly appraise their farming operations by the end of 2007,” Mr Macdonald said.