Defra Reveals Breakthrough In Over-Regulation

UK - The National Beef Association (NBA) has described a London meeting earlier this week, between farmers and government on how to remove mutual red tape burdens as the most positive, and encouraging, it has attended.
calendar icon 19 May 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

This is because it was obvious each was keen to work in partnership and hack away the costly regulation that has unnecessarily snarled up both administrative systems and farm businesses in England.

“I must congratulate government ministers on their open acknowledgment that the progressive imposition of unnecessarily complicated rules and regulation has suffocated forward progress in English agriculture - and support their determination to examine the removal of the many obstacles identified by Richard Macdonald’s Task Force and clear the way to much needed joint progress,” said NBA chairman, Oisin Murnion.

Crucial to the success of this venture is Defra’s decision to take farmers on trust and use regulation as a means of punishing persistent offenders instead of an automatic first step when setting out to solve emerging problems.

“This is an important change in government attitude. Farmers as a group will no longer be seen as potential law breakers but instead as individuals that can be taken on trust and be trusted. The anti-dote is that those that break this trust get the book thrown at them- and the NBA supports this,” said Mr Murnion.

“It should be noted that other EU governments are also preparing to examine the removal of over-regulation and free up money that they and their farmers can put to better use. This could mean that the much needed stripping out of red tape becomes an EU-wide phenomenon.”

The Task Force has listed 214 recommendations that Defra has promised to examine positively. These include the simplification of SFP applications and greater reliance on computer systems – which will be made easier by government funded extension of the broadband network so more farms in remote locations are captured.

Farm inspections are to become more risk based too. Those with a Red Tractor farm assurance certificate will be judged to be lower risk and less likely to be targeted – although this does not mean that farm assurance, which has a cross-industry stakeholder base, will be taken over by government as a quasi-inspection service.

And Defra is to improve the monitoring of livestock movements by setting up a data capture tool, not unlike the respected APHIS system in Northern Ireland, which will scrap the need for passports and allow the location of an individual animal, for disease or any other reason, to take a matter of hours instead of the 3.5 days it might still take in England.

“The only area that the NBA is critical about is the recommendation to establish a maximum ten mile radius around SOAs. This would mean the movement standstill being removed only within a ten mile radius of each holding which would hit some businesses exceptionally hard. The Association would like to persuade Defra examine alternatives,” said Mr Murnion.

“However the big news is that government is prepared to take farmers on trust. This is a huge breakthrough in regulatory attitude. It should be seen as a first step and if farmers can demonstrate they deserve this trust both industry and government could move onto a second, even less costly or burdensome stage, in which the grip of regulation is reduced still further.”

“I am hoping that similar positive attitudes will be adopted by other governments elsewhere in the UK.”

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