Plan to slash red tape unveiled

RICHARD Macdonald’s farming red tape task force has challenged the Government to ‘establish an entirely new culture of regulation’ to ease the burden on farmers.

The former NFU director general’s long awaited Farming Regulation Task Force report was formally presented to Farming Minister Jim Paice today.

Containing around 214 recommendations, it lays out a new model of regulation that, if adopted by Ministers, could have a profound impact on the way farming businesses operate in future.

The 152-page document makes detailed recommendations in a number of areas, including livestock movements, the Single Payment Scheme, environmental regulation, the inspection regime, planning, and paperwork.

Among the most eye-catching elements are recommendations to:

  • Simplify the livestock movement regime, including recommendations to lift the six-day standstill on farm to farm movement, to replace Sole Occupancy Agreements and Cattle Tracing Service links with single County-Parish-Holding units (of up to 10 miles in radius) and adopt electronic recording of all livestock movements.
  • Adopt a new risk-based approach to inspection, particularly for cross compliance. This would be based on the concept of ‘earned recognition’ where ‘low risk’ farmers who demonstrate compliance with the rules through, for example, membership of farm assurance schemes, benefit from reduced inspection.
  • Simplify the Single Payment Scheme by, for example, abolishing entitlements, limiting payments to holdings of over 5ha of ‘actively managed’ land and removing some cross compliance conditions.
  • Reduce the paperwork burden involved in Nitrates Regulations and minimising their burden by integrating the aims of the Nitrates Directive with those of the Water Framework Directive.
  • ·Change planning rules to ‘support sustainable and productive farming’, making it easier for farmers and growers to get permission for large scale developments and controversial structures like polytunnels.
  • Amend the gangmasters licensing system to improve farmers’ and growers’ perception of the system, and ‘make inspections more targeted while still protecting workers’.
  • Improve meat hygiene controls by, for example, allowing ‘competent’ meat processors to source inspection services from accredited private-sector providers.

The report is heavily critical of much of the current regulatory regime, describing today’s livestock movement rules, for example, as ‘complex and obstructive to livestock production’, resulting in ‘relatively high levels of non-compliance’.

While many of the details will be of significant interest to farmers, the report’s over-arching message is about the need for a fundamental change in the way Government regulates the sector.

“The key strategic message from our report is that Defra, its agencies and delivery partners need to establish an entirely new approach to and culture of regulation; otherwise the frustration that we, farmers and food-processing businesses have felt will continue,” the report says.

“The essence of this approach is about strengthening the partnership between Government and the farming and food-processing industries.”

The report calls on Ministers to ‘trust industry’ and involve it in the development of regulations. It urges Defra to ‘change the focus’ from the ‘culture of tick-box regulation to delivering real results’ and calls for Government inspection and enforcement to become ‘more efficient and more effective’.

Launching his report, Mr Macdonald said his task force had listened to what farmers and food producers have to say about how they are regulated.

“Our two hundred recommendations challenge Defra to change the way it approaches regulation for the farming and food processing industries.

“Our recommendations won’t all be easy but they are credible and, I believe, now is the time for change. It is now for Defra, its agencies and delivery partners, and industry to respond to the challenge.”

Taken from Farmers Guardian's Weekly newsletter 17th May 2011

The recommendations that affect farming on the commons include:

  • SPS on commons: We believe that Defra needs to address the complexities faced by commoners when claiming SPS. In the absence of agreement between parties, we recommend that there should be a single payment made to the appropriate Commoners Association (or equivalent). The Association (or equivalent) should be responsible for identifying the active claimants, notifying the RPA and dividing the payment appropriately on the basis of those who are actively farming the common. We are aware that commoners, by definition, do not own the land they are grazing, but we understand that this approach is already used in the administration of agri‐environment schemes for commoners. In line with our view that only those managing land should receive SPS (paragraph 7.21), and those actively farming the land are the
    graziers, we do not believe this arrangement should require landowner consent (see page 91 of full report )
  • Animal movements: standstill movements should not apply for movement between farms (or commons), whether or not there is a change of owner/keeper and where those farms are not engaged in animal gathering (see page 102 of full report)

To Download the full report or a summary of the report, click below: