Minister kicks off task force set up to slice through red tape

A new industry-led task force headed by former NFU director general Richard Macdonald has been launched to look at ways of reducing the stranglehold of red tape on farmers and growers.

Agriculture minister Jim Paice made the announcement last week at Haymarket's Cereals 2010 event, when he called for the bureaucratic burdens on the farming industry to be "examined under a microscope".

A review of the relevant regulations and their implementation, as well as advice on how to achieve a risk-based system of regulation in the future, will be carried out by the task force.

Paice said: "There's too much red tape tying up our farmers and preventing them from getting on with the business of producing our food and managing our countryside. That's why we committed in the coalition agreement to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers by moving to a risk-based system of regulation. The burden on farming and food manufacturing businesses is not just the number of regulations but the emphasis on process rather than outcomes.

"I'm going to ask this industry-led task force to look at the way we make and implement regulations right across the board, both at what's already in place and how we should do things in the future."

Macdonald added: "I am very much looking forward to leading a task that I have long thought needs doing. It won't be easy to achieve significant results overnight and as well as the task force itself I plan to consult everybody in the farming and food sector interested in working with us. Together I hope that we can make a real difference".

Defra secretary of state Caroline Spelman said: "Farmers should be trusted to do the right thing - it's in your interests, after all. We want you to be free to demonstrate to all that you are indeed the best stewards of the land. So we will look at moving, and moving swiftly, to a system of risk-based regulation that makes the use and implementation of regulation relevant to the realities of farming today.

"I know that many of these regulations were born in Europe and I know that some of them don't always make much sense when translated to our shores. That's why providing a strong and persuasive voice in Europe is critical to ensuring that the knowledge and experience of our farmers are used to get the right regulations for our industry." The task force will make its initial recommendations to Government by early 2011.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "The announcement is just the commitment the industry needs. The coalition Government is standing by its promise to review this area, which will help ensure we have a competitive food and farming sector in the future."

This new task force is not be confused with the fruit and vegetable task force, which was set up last year by the previous Labour Government to find practical ways of increasing fruit and vegetable production in the UK. The fruit and vegetable task force is due to publish its findings later on this year.

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