11 January 1999
Brown future means paperwork for farmers
By FWi staff
FARMERS face yet more paperwork after Agriculture Minister Nick Brown launched a massive consultation exercise which will send a questionnaire to every farm in the country.
The decision to canvas the views of all farmers was announced by Mr Brown at a “farm summit” in London held today (Monday) to discuss to the way forward for British agriculture.
The meeting was called last week by Mr Brown ahead of a European meeting of farm ministers to thrash out the impending reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
European farm ministers have until the end of March to agree on the form of the new CAP, which will be reformed to allow the accession of central European countries.
Mr Brown wants to canvass farmers to see how they would prefer to progress with the reforms, which will include the reduction of production subsidies.
Many British farmers will be pleased that Mr Brown is willing to listen to their views, but some will doubtless be dismayed at having once more to put pen to paper.
Paperwork and filling in MAFF-related forms have been listed by researchers among the prime causes of farmers high stress levels, which often turn to suicide.
Producers are still coming to terms with the extra paperwork required following the start of the British Cattle Tracing System (BCMS), launched last September.
The BCMS, which formed part of the Governments fight to get the beef export ban lifted, aims to electronically trace every cow in the country to ensure it is free of BSE.
Arable farmers, too, often spend days filling out forms to claim subsidies from Brussels under the Integrated Administrative Control System.
But Mr Brown said that the public consultation would help the Government achieve a reformed European agricultural policy which would benefit everybody.
Farmers, taxpayers and shoppers will all reap the rewards of a reformed subsidy system, he said.
Farmers would benefit from a reduction in red tape which would in turn free them to compete on the world market, said Mr Brown.
Shoppers would benefit from lower food prices and taxpayers would benefit from a reduction which currently costs £4 billion annually.