East Anglia: NFU welcomes Farming Regulation Task Force recommendations

FARMERS’ leaders in East Anglia yesterday urged the Government to move quickly in implementing proposals contained in a report on cutting red tape within the agriculture and food sectors.

Agriculture Minister and South East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice promised that some immediate action would be taken, although he insisted that there would be no “bonfire of regulations”

Yesterday’s report from the independent Farming Regulation Task Force, which was announced in June last year, set out more than 200 recommendations for reducing the administrative burden faced by farmers, following a wide-ranging review of current regulations and how they are implemented.

The recommendations cover areas including planning, reducing paperwork, cutting on-farm inspections, tackling seasonal labour shortages and environmental legislation.

Pamela Forbes, the National Farmers’ Union’s regional director for East Anglia, said the NFU welcomed the scale and scope of the report.

“The task force urges the Government to be bold and we would echo that,” she said. “Farmers across the region will welcome the call for a new approach to inspection and enforcement that is targeted and fairer.

“Previous efforts to tackle the red tape strangling our industry have just tinkered at the edges. This report offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally take off the shackles, freeing farmers to produce more while maintaining high standards of food safety and environmental protection.”

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Mr Paice said: “We expect our farmers and food producers to maintain the highest standards, but the way to get them to achieve those standards isn’t to wrap them up in red tape – we need to free them from unnecessary burdens.

“We must trust in the industry’s ability to produce our food, manage our countryside and contribute to our economic recovery.”

He added: “This was never about a bonfire of regulations but about changing the culture of how we apply and enforce regulation. We will continue to defend our high standards for environmental management, animal welfare and food safety.”

Among the areas identified by the Government for immediate action were reducing the paperwork required under nitrate regulations and moving towards reporting all pig and cattle movement online, said Mr Paice.

A new Strategic Regulatory Scrutiny Panel would also be created, tasked with challenging and advising on the wider approach to regulation.

“In the longer-term my priority will be to cut the unnecessary paperwork that farmers and food producers have to deal with and, wherever possible, move remaining paperwork online,” said Mr Paice.

An initial response to the report would be published by the Government in the autumn with a full and final response early in 2012, he added.

Harry Cotterell, deputy president of the Country Land & Business Association, said: “The industry is ready to work with the Government to reduce excessive regulation while maintaining high farming and environmental standards.”

The report was “a great first step to deleting pointless bureaucracy,” he added.