Farmers in England will soon find it simpler and easier to get advice and guidance from government with the introduction of the Rural Services Helpline next week.
From 30 September, farmers will have a single phone number they can call for any questions they want to direct to either the Rural Payments Agency or the Animal and Plant Health Agency - ending the need to remember multiple phone numbers. The new helpline will also coincide with improvements to GOV.UK to make it easier for farmers to access services and find information.
These are the first steps in bringing together the two agencies’ services, creating one point of contact for farming advice. This will free up valuable time allowing farmers to concentrate on their businesses.
By Summer 2016 this new way of working will go beyond phone lines to see farm inspections combined with mandatory checks. Currently a tangle of 7 regulators carry out more than 125,000 farm inspections a year to England’s 250,000 farms. Over the last parliament Defra successfully cut 34,000 farm inspections a year and over 80% of guidance – saving businesses £300 million annually.
Streamlining process between the RPA and APHA, and making better use of technology and data, will cut a further 20,000 inspections every year.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
Our food and farming industry is already an economic powerhouse, worth over £100 billion a year and supporting 1 in 8 jobs. I want to support our farmers to grow more and sell more British produce, and the new single farm helpline will make it quicker and easier to get the information they need from government and concentrate on producing world class food.
Whenever farmers have to talk to government – about their CAP payments, animal health inspections or environmental stewardship scheme - we want to make it as simple as possible. Through the Single Farm inspection Taskforce we will make further cuts to the number of farm visits – saving businesses millions of pounds and countless hours.
The Environment Secretary is also continuing to make the case with the European Commission for simplifications to Common Agricultural Policy checks and inspections – such as by using satellite data to analyse different crop types in fields.
From 30 September farmers can contact the helpline on 03000 200 301 Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5pm.