The Guardian is among several media organisations to report that the UK Government is to cut farming red tape and reduce farm inspections.
The government said on Tuesday that it would adopt dozens of measures aimed at cutting “red tape” for farmers as part of efforts to reduce regulation of business.
The move would see fewer inspections of farms which already meet high environmental and animal welfare standards, steps to reduce form-filling and efforts to make it easier for farmers to access government services online.
I’ll believe it when I see it. I suspect the reality will be a ‘light touch’ approach for vast agribusinesses and business as usual for the rest of us—disproportionate implementation of bureaucratic measures that might not be too onerous for a very large farming operation but are ridiculous when applied to the minnows of farming.
Take the Feed Regulations, for example. We have to record the details off all feed used by batch, including its origin, its use, what it was mixed with, when we started using it, when we finished using, its chemical composition and so on.
It wouldn’t be too onerous if we had an industrial operation and were buying in 25-tonne truckloads of pig feed to put through a computer controlled feed system.
But we don’t. We buy about a tonne of feed at a time, bagged and from a variety of batches. All the details of each bag have to be logged. By hand.
By the time we get through 25 tonnes of feed, we’ve filled in the details hundreds of times.
It’s even worse when it comes to home-grown feed. It’s not economic for us to have a ton of neeps or two tons of potatoes analysed, so we don’t have those details. And we don’t have the space to store scores of samples for testing in the event of a problem.
We rely on the discretion of individual inspectors to get us through. Some accept that small-scale operations can’t be expected to meet the same requirements of a large agribusiness. Others don’t.
I can’t see this approach changing, regardless of what the government pledges. It is there for big business, after all.
That’s not to say that a degree of regulation and inspection isn’t needed. It is. But it should be focused where the greatest harm to the most people is most likely.
- Neysa King: Why We Farm: The Final Chapter (huffingtonpost.com)
- Climate change ‘will boost British farmers’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Government survey (angusnicolson.blogspot.com)