When the minister for food and farming, Jim Paice, called to ask if I would chair the new Farming Regulation Taskforce I had reservations. Over the years I’ve seen many initiatives to improve farming regulation launched with fanfare but changing very little.
This is not to criticise all those who have tried. It’s just that politicians haven’t really been serious about reducing the regulatory burden that farm and food businesses face. The whole climate after BSE and various other crises has been precautionary, prescriptive and risk averse. Better to introduce more rules than less, check everyone follows them and fill in lots of forms to prove it. We shouldn’t blame the civil servants – they followed what cautious politicians decided.
So, what changed my mind? First, despite past failures, this job desperately needs doing. Businesses are bogged down in bureaucracy, which is bad for competition and sanity. But more importantly Jim Paice persuaded me that he was very serious about finding risk-based, proportionate solutions where farmers and businesses are trusted. This is not a carte blanche invitation to lower standards. It is the opportunity to use market based regulations that are simple and focussed on delivering food to high standards in the best and simplest way.
I am delighted to have a great group of people with wide ranging experience to join me in this task. Our aim is to recommend where we can remove unnecessary regulation altogether, get rid of gold plating on rules and remove over-complex implementation or enforcement of regulations, including inspections and forms.
We will report back to the minister in spring 2011, but we are free to push forward with earlier recommendations where we see them. But to really make a difference we need your support. Many trade associations have promised to help us but, we also want to hear from individual farmers, growers, factory managers and anyone with something to add. What regulations do you think are unnecessary, over the top, or a paper or enforcement nightmare?
This job won’t be easy – not least because much of it is enshrined in EU Directives. However, we will are determined to give the minister a report that transforms how you work. Please support us by telling us about the issues that you think need changing and alternative ways of working.
How to have your say
• You can submit your suggestions of the red tape you would like to see ripped up here.
• You can also write to: Task Force on Farming Regulation Area, 8D Millbank, DEFRA, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR
• Alternatively you can post your suggestions on the Farmers Weekly forums or send us a letter
• You have until Sunday 31 October to get in touch