Grower views sought in bid to cut red tape

Growers' opinions and ideas on how best to cut unnecessary red tape in horticulture are needed as part of a consultation launched this month by the new farming regulation task force.

The task force was launched by the Government in June to reduce the amount of bureaucracy faced by farmers and growers and is now asking for their help to improve the UK's approach to regulation.

In particular, the task force is seeking examples of regulations that are unnecessary and could be removed without lowering standards for business, the public or the environment, those that have had additional and unnecessary measures added to them or rules that are overly complex or disproportionate in the way that they are implemented or enforced.

Minister of state for agriculture and food Jim Paice said: "Regulations have nearly always been put in place for good reasons but not necessarily in the best way. There is too much red tape tying up our farmers and food businesses.

"I have challenged the task force to make recommendations that will change culture in both Government and business. The focus will be on outcomes, risk-based solutions and proportionate enforcement. They must think beyond 'traditional' regulation and enforcement, while maintaining our high public and environmental protection standards."

Task force chairman and former NFU director general Richard Macdonald, added: "We want farmers, growers and the food industry, which often complains about excessive regulation and bureaucratic processes, to help us improve the system. This is a major consultation exercise to identify the issues and find solutions, and we encourage all interested parties to submit evidence personally or through trade and representative bodies."

He added: "It is our intention also to get out and meet farmers, growers and food processors to get first hand views on what's wrong and explore new and alternative ways to current regulations and processes."

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Sarah Pettitt advised growers to be specific in the examples they give. She said: "As growers we appreciate and accept that certain regulations are necessary for our industry. But we have all experienced and for some time been frustrated by the seemingly continuous increase in the amount of red tape burdening our businesses.

"To make the most of this opportunity we need to be quite specific in terms of what we want changed. For example, the implementation of the EU fruit and vegetable regime in the UK is one area suggested as needing investigation. It is absolutely right that this issue is highlighted, but to get the solutions we want we need to be more specific about exactly what we want changed."

She added: "We also need to provide specific examples of regulations applied more rigorously in the UK than elsewhere - this is gold-plating.

"We also need to highlight how the industry effectively delivers much regulation through voluntary schemes such as assurance, and as a result we have some of the highest-quality and safest food production the world. And we need to highlight how the industry has successfully delivered voluntary alternatives to regulation, such as the Voluntary Initiative."

The consultation is open until 31 October. Growers can submit their views online at www.tiny.cc/farmregulation or email farmregulationtaskforce@defra.gsi.gov.uk or write to: Task Force on Farming Regulation, Area 8D Millbank, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR. All comments will be captured and recorded in summary in the task force's final report in 2011.


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