Farming regulations task force lists 200 points for action

Government pledges fast response on cutting red tape after task force reports back on easing farming industry's burdens.

Increasing support for specific off-label approvals, introducing a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme and ensuring that the forthcoming national planning policy framework supports sustainable and productive farming and growing are just some of the recommendations made by the farming regulation task force.

The task force, led by Richard Macdonald, set out to find ways of reducing the burden of red tape - estimated to cost £5bn-£10bn each year.

Last week, a year after it was first convened, the task force published a list of more than 200 recommendations aimed at making farmers' and growers' lives easier following an extensive review of all the regulations endured by the industry and the way they are implemented.

Farming minister Jim Paice, speaking at the launch of the report, pledged that "work will begin immediately to cut red tape in farming".

He added: "I asked the task force to explore how we can move from regulations that focus on process to those that achieve the best end result and the team has done this.

"We have already identified a number of areas where we can take immediate action, such as reducing the paperwork required under nitrate regulations and moving towards reporting all pig and cattle movement online. I am also pleased to announce the creation of a strategic regulatory scrutiny panel, tasked with challenging and advising us on the way we think about 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."

NFU president Peter Kendall praised Macdonald and his team for the detailed and thoughtful report. But he stressed that there was a lot of work ahead.

"For a long time now we have been calling on the Government to regulate better and not simply less or not at all," he said. "I firmly believe that all areas of farming can and will benefit from the task force's work."

He added: "I particularly welcome the report's specific recommendations on planning, nitrates and water quality, pesticides and cross compliance - all areas highlighted in our submission to the task force."

FARMING REGULATION TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT

- Find ways to improve record-keeping on farms in nitrates vulnerable zones. For example, exempting organic farmers from record-keeping requirements.

- Add polytunnels and other horticultural support structures to the General Permitted Development Order, under specific conditions.

- Keep horticultural equipment such as table tops, training systems and fruit netting outside the planning system.

- Increase the supply of seasonal labour, including adapting the benefit system to reduce financial disincentives for the unemployed, and introduce a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.

- Amend the gangmasters licensing system to improve farmers' and growers' perception of the system, and make inspections more targeted while still protecting workers.

- Improve the gangmasters licensing system by greater use of targeted inspections and enforcement, clarifying current guidance and refocusing external communication.

- Improve the pesticides regulatory regime in the longer term to a risk-based framework and push the Government for further harmonisation at a European level, to give growers access to the most effective pesticides.

- Allow a grace period after pesticide withdrawals where the active ingredient itself remains safe to use - and thus there is no risk to health or the environment for growers to use up their stock.


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