Get online to cut bureaucracy, farmers are urged

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Farmers have been urged to make good use of their time and help save time in the future by contributing their thoughts on how to cut the mountain of paperwork and regulation their businesses face.

The Scottish Government’s review of farming red tape has now been extended with the opening of an online consultation offering individual farmers the chance to air their views on regulation and, as an added carrot, these views can be posted anonymously

The move comes almost 12 months after Scottish cabinet secretary for rural affairs Richard Lochhead invited Brian Pack to head a working group to review the level of red tape associated with Scottish farming.

Speaking this week, Lochhead said: “We’re determined to free up farmers to do what they do best – put food on our tables and manage our magnificent natural landscape.”

He assured potential users that the online system was user friendly and had been tried and tested, as well as being designed to allow the public to have a constructive discussion and to comment on other people’s ideas.

Since the launch, Pack has laid out his report covering issues such as simplifying cattle identification and traceability, the biggest cause of cross compliance failure in Scotland.

Also in Pack’s sights are the controversial issue of sheep traceability and if the current Scottish system goes beyond what is required by the EU.

Encouraging his membership to get online and contribute to the discussion, NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said that farmers recognised that there needed to be an 
element of regulation around agriculture.

“But the reality of on-farm is that compliance with the 
current levels of red tape and 
bureaucracy has gone beyond what is acceptable” he said. “Many farm businesses now spend a disproportionate amount of time filling out paperwork to satisfy regulations rather than getting on with the job of farming, looking after their land and producing food.”

Walker added that previous attempts to reduce the regulatory burden – such as the Scottish Environment and Rural Services initiative – had delivered benefits but these were mostly to the regulators and not to the farming community.

“Brian Pack’s review is focused on the regulations and bureaucracy specific to land managers and farmers and has the potential to make a real difference. Now is an opportunity for them to add their voice to the union’s calls and to highlight how things could be done better,” he said.