The long awaited Government response to the Farming Regulation Task Force chaired by Richard MacDonald was unveiled this week (Tuesday, February 21) at the NFU annual conference. In it the Government has accepted most of the 220 recommendations from the panel aimed at cutting red tape in the agriculture industry.
The RSPB has welcomed farming minister Jim Paice's commitment to maintaining protection for the environment in our farmed countryside. However there are concerns over the suggestion that regulation should only be used as a last resort.
Abi Burns, RSPB senior agriculture policy officer, said: "As land managers ourselves we know the importance of proportionate, light-touch regulation. And as conservationists, we know the importance of having an agreed set of rules to prevent anyone making a profit by damaging our collective natural assets.
"The challenge for taking this review forward will be to keep things both practical and safe. We can have a simpler, more streamlined system without weakening protection for the environment and we will work constructively with others to find solutions to genuine examples of unnecessary burden.
"Voluntary initiatives have an important contribution to make in this area and we have played an active role in many of these projects. But regulation remains an essential tool for safeguarding the environment and the public.
"Defra's own independently conducted research indicates that the economic benefits of regulation often substantially outweigh the costs.
"There are some welcome recommendations in the Government's response today to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on farmers by doing away with duplicated paperwork and encouraging government agencies to share information more closely.
"We are also pleased that the Government has accepted the recommendation that grasslands valuable for wildlife should be better identified to improve their protection."
The RSPB is investing time to support the Implementation Group overseeing how Government carries out the Task Force's recommendations as this important work goes forward.
1. Defra's press release on today's announcement can be found here - http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/02/21/freeing-up-farming/