Headlines: November 20th, 2000

Farmers may not have won the concessions they were seeking from the Chancellor over fuel, but they have won recognition that they face a burden of too much paperwork from Government.The latest report from the Better Regulation Task Force says the burden of regulation on farmers can and must be reduced without jeopardising the public’s expectations of safe food and a sustainable environment.

The report -‘Environmental Regulations and Farmers’ – was commissioned by the Prime Minister as part of the Government’s farming strategy.

It lists 21 recommendations which include calls for the various statutory authorities to co-ordinate their visits to farms, for specific improvements to existing regulations, for the Government to ensure that all farmers are on the internet by 2005, and for the Government to consider an ombudsman for the rural environment.

But there is also some tough news for farmers on subsidy. The task force wants subsidies supporting environmental protection rather than food production.

As well as focussing on regulation, the report recommends a programme of education. It says many farmers are not aware of the damage they can cause to the environment, and recommends that the giving of advice become a first priority for the Environment Agency.

The task force thinks MAFF needs to redefine its role as sponsor of agriculture – avoiding a conflict of interest with its sponsorship of the food industry. MAFF should not support farming uncritically but represent the legitimate interests of farmers to policy makers across Whitehall and make sure that farmers are aware of their responsibilities to the public.

The full text of ‘Environmental Regulations and Farmers’ – can be found on the Better Regulation Task Force website:www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/regulation/index/task.htm.