The farming industry is the first to benefit from the Government’s pledge to slash red tape which hinders business efficiency, Farming Minister Jim Paice announced today.
A raft of measures to free farmers from the shackles of unnecessary burdens, help their businesses become more competitive and so provide a boost to the economy whilst still ensuring environmental protection have been published.
Launching the Government’s full response to Farming Regulation Task Force, Mr Paice committed to take action on 86 per cent of the independent panel’s original recommendations made last May.
Key commitments include:
- A pilot to increase data sharing between government agencies that if successful will be extended, leading to less form filling;
- Closer industry involvement in the policy making process to look for non-regulatory approaches wherever possible, and a Defra-NFU staff exchange programme starting in April;
- Simplifying messages to farmers about environmental protection rules so they know exactly what they have to do to comply;
- Offering a potential way forward for removing the six-day livestock standstill rule, as long the livestock industry can develop a workable approach to the use of livestock separation units which will maintain protection against animal disease and that the changes are affordable and enforceable; and
- Fewer inspections for farmers who already meet high environmental and animal welfare standards, as a result of NFU-led regional networks co-ordinating Government agencies, local councils and assurance scheme providers.
Farming Minister Jim Paice said:
“This Government wants to help to create the right conditions for businesses to thrive and remove unnecessary burdens which hold back UK economic growth. This is a new approach to working with the farming industry, and shows Defra is committed to freeing up businesses to help drive economic recovery.
“With rising global demand for food, farmers and their skills are in huge demand, which brings business opportunities. The response to the Farming Regulation Taskforce commits to clear actions that will make it easier for farmers to get on with their jobs and make the most of those opportunities.
“We’re fundamentally changing the way we work with the farming industry - this is a balance of trusting farmers’ expertise and ability to do the right thing, and farmers demonstrating that they can fulfil their responsibilities on protecting the environment, and upholding animal welfare and food safety standards.
“I want to pay tribute to the work of Richard Macdonald and his task force, and the constructive and creative approach they have taken to helping us improve business conditions for farmers. I’m pleased to announce that he will be leading the implementation group to guide us through a challenging agenda and making this become a reality.”
The report addresses every one of more than 200 recommendations, saying yes to over 150 and actively considering a further 31. Defra has not accepted 30 because either they would be unachievable or would reduce standards, or because a better solution has been found.
Other key commitments include:
- More effective UK lobbying on key EU farming laws, by working closely with industry experts through strategy groups;
- Scheduled meetings between the Department of Transport and the NFU on changing rules restricting tractor and trailer weights;
- Making it easier for farmers to access Government services on-line;
- A fly-tipping summit to bring together organisations across all sectors to galvanise support for regional action; and
- Defra workshops with farmers next month to look at how paperwork can be reduced.
Chair of the Farming Regulation Taskforce, Richard Macdonald, said:
“The task force made over 200 recommendations and the fact that almost 90 per cent have been accepted marks real progress. I am very pleased.
“While some of the specific recommendations haven’t been accepted, which will disappoint some, overall it vindicates everything we’ve been doing to drive forward change.
“Now we need to turn words into actions. I am pleased to be chairing the implementation group to see it through so that Government and industry meet their commitments and step up to the responsibilities.”
Two groups will now meet regularly to make sure these commitments are acted on. An independent Regulatory Scrutiny Panel will take a strategic overview on the way that Defra is shaping and implementing regulation. And a Task Force Implementation Group will focus on what is being done on the ground. It will be chaired by Richard Macdonald and made up of Defra officials, farmers, and farming and environmental organisations.
The government’s response to the Farming Regulation Task Force report can be seen at http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/farm-manage/farm-regulation/.
Out of the 238 recommendations, 220 were directed to Defra and 18 were directed to the Food Standards Agency. In total Defra has said yes to 159, is actively considering 31, and has not accepted 30. The FSA has accepted 17 and not accepted one.