Innovative Farming in the Future Depends on Simplifying Red Tape Now

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Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

The possibilities for farming innovation and diversification have been the subject of speculation in a recent edition of a well-known UK publication for farmers as part of a discussion on new skills that might attract the next generation of young people into farming.

Ideas included insect farming to provide for growing demand for food protein, providing a renewable energy production hub for local communities by installing wind farms for electricity generation and becoming animal therapists to ensuring the wellbeing of stock in response to public concerns for the welfare of animals raised for food.

Although these are all imaginative ideas for the future a more immediate concern for UK farmers is the amount of bureaucracy and red tape they find themselves having to deal with.

Farmers have contributed suggestions for simplifying regulation, including a need for government to reduce and revamp paperwork, closer engagement with the EU and looking at changing planning regulations to allow farmers to be more adaptable and innovative.

The farmers' wish list also, crucially, included improvement to the pesticides regulatory scheme, arguing that the UK government should push harder for harmonisation at EU level so that they can get access to the most effective pesticides.

This last has been a long-running issue since the EU introduced new legislation, the EU Plant Protection Products Regulations in December 2009. Member states have been given a deadline of December 2010 to produce national action plans and present them to the European Commission.

Predictions from researchers last year, however, raised concerns about he effects of removing large numbers of the existing, traditional insecticides, herbicides and fungicides from the agricultural products available for crop protection would have a significant impact on both crop yields and food prices in the UK.

Biopesticides developers in laboratories particularly in the USA have also raised concerns about the cost and lengthy time required for the process of getting their new biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers through trials, testing and eventually licensing.

They also have pointed out the difficulty of having to comply with the differing processes required in each EU member state and called for their harmonisation.

Generally such research establishments are small and rarely have sufficient funds to cover the lengthy process and some have teamed up with large, established agrochemical companies to deal with this.

While this may make it easier to fund the licensing process it does not deal with the issue of the length of time it can all take, estimated at between five and eight years in the EU zone.

Commodity prices, including those for basic grains such as wheat and rice, are currently rising dramatically. Governments' efforts to recover from the 2008 recession is incresingly squeezing consumer buying power.

At the same time demand is rising both from population growth and for more natural, healthy and chemical free food. All this suggests that much more urgency is needed in addresisng the situaiton.


Farmers could diversify and be more innovative about their business activities if the current burden of red tape affecting everything from animal movements to biopesticide regulation were simplified. By Ali Withers.

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