Cereals 2010: ‘Red tape tsar’ has over-regulation in his sights

DEFRA has appointed a red tape tsar to find ways to reduce the burden of regulation on farmers and cut costs for the industry.

Former NFU director general Richard Macdonald has been appointed to head an industry-led taskforce charged with cutting red tape and making life easier for producers.

Announcing the appointment at Cereals 2010 in Cambridgeshire on Wednesday, farm minister Jim Paice said Mr Macdonald and a team of people from across the food and farming industries would make recommendations over which regulations could be abolished.

It would also look at areas of regulatory “gold-plating” and the over-implementation of rules.

Mr Paice said farmers needed to be given more time to farm and be trusted “more than ever before” to comply with regulations.

“We have become obsessed with process rather than outcomes,” he said.

“We have all the guidance notices, forms, tick boxes and records that farmers have to keep, which are about process rather than complying with sensible objectives to do things like reducing pollution.

“While that means being tough on those that don’t fulfil regulations, we know farmers are the best people to know how to do things.”

Video: Watch our interview with Jim Paice

Mr Paice said the taskforce, which would be independent from government, would consult with farmers and industry organisations over the areas they felt were over-burdened by legislation.

Cutting down on the number of official farm inspections and gold plating of policies were particular areas he was keen to see change.

“NVZ rules force farmers to spread on certain days and it’s absurd,” he said. “The farmer knows when conditions are right and it’s a level of detail we should be involved with.

“I am convinced this will save money for farmers – while government can’t fix prices we can affect costs.”

Mr Paice said he hoped cost savings to the industry would also translate to cost savings for DEFRA, which has to cut its 2010-2011 budget by £162m.

“We want the team to be free to do anything they think is best,” he added. “I can’t guarantee I will act on everything [the team] says, but I want this to work and I am determined to reduce the regulation burden.”

NFU president Peter Kendall welcomed the appointment of Mr Macdonald and the government’s efforts to reduce regulatory burdens on farmers.

“It’s the culmination of regulation that makes farmers feel office-bound,” he said. “Farmers want to spend more time being farmers rather than filling in forms.

“We are delighted with the appointment of Richard as someone who knows the industry and the issues and we look forward to working with him.”

The taskforce is set to make its first recommendations to government early next year.

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