DEFRA has been challenged with creating a new culture of regulation as part of a 200-step plan to ease the burden of red tape within agriculture.
Farm minister Jim Paice was told the government needed to build a relationship with the farming industry based on trust to enable the number of farm inspections to be slashed.
Setting out more than 200 recommendations for cutting agricultural regulation, independent Farming Regulation Task Force chairman Richard Macdonald said there were many ways farmers’ lives could be made easier without reducing standards.
Presenting the taskforce’s recommendations to the minister in London on Tuesday (17 May), Mr Macdonald outlined key areas where regulation could be simplified, including animal movements, planning and Single Farm Payment applications.
Other recommendations included:
• Applying the principles of simplifying and removing duplication to animal welfare inspections – DEFRA hopes to consult soon on options in this area
• Finding ways of improving record-keeping on farms in Nitrates Vulnerable Zones – for example by exempting organic farmers from record-keeping requirements;
• Changing aspects of the six-day standstill arrangements so that they will no longer apply to animals moving directly between farms
• Rationalising the allocation of County Parish Holding (CPH) numbers – the system by which individual holdings are identified and allocated to farmers, so that the same rules apply to all species
• Moving away from paper-based movement reporting for sheep, through the introduction of an industry-owned database
• Abolishing the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) links and Sole Occupancy Agreements (SOAs), which provide specific exemptions to movement reporting and six-day standstills for farm animals, but add unnecessary complications to an already complex system.
Mr Macdonald commended DEFRA for agreeing to take immediate steps to address some of the regulatory issues, but said it was vital the farming industry played its part.
“The farming and food processing industries need to contribute to economic recovery and produce more food in a sustainable and safe way,” he said.
“To make this happen, the government needs to change the way it deals with them. By accepting our recommendations DEFRA will show that it is prepared to do this.”
Mr Paice said he recognised there were many areas where regulation could be reduced without compromising on safety, welfare or quality standards.
He said was passionate about lifting the regulatory burden from farmers and had already tasked DEFRA staff with looking at how regulation could be streamlined.
The full report would be studied and DEFRA would make a formal response on the recommendations later in the year, he added.