Article excerpt

GOOD agricultural practice must be promoted to reduce undesirable environmental impacts as well as to deliver environmental benefits but new approaches are needed, according to a House of Lords report published this week.

The Earl of Selborne FRS, chairman of the inquiry said: "Farmers are inundated with regulations and advice from many different sources. The burden of paperwork threatens to overwhelm smaller businesses.

"Government and its agencies need to work more closely together to help farmers meet environmental goals. The key to this is a 'whole-farm approach'.''

He added: "We welcome the fact that DEFRA has set up a Farm Focus Division, but this must be better resourced with a presence in all regions. We were particularly disappointed to hear it would take 10 years to achieve proper integration of data systems. This is unacceptable.''

The committee recommends:

l A risk-based approach which relies more on self-regulation and less on formal regulation by enforcement agencies;

l A true partnership between regulators and regulated to ensure that workable and effective environmental regulations, with known cost implications, are developed well in advance of implementation dates;

l The new approach should be built around whole-farm planning and environmental management systems;

l The Government should support the transition to new regulatory regimes with co-ordinated advice, training, IT systems and infrastructure provision;

l Unnecessary barriers to information exchange (such as the Environment Agency's inability to access IACS data) must be removed. …