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More paperwork is on the way... but give it a chance

by 5m Editor
3 September 2003, at 12:00am

UK - How can any form of regulation be farmer-friendly? Well what's on the horizon for the farming industry actually looks better than what's happened in the past. By Chris Knock, Director of Agricultural Development in the Eastern Region (ADER).

National
Pig
Association

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THE VOICE OF THE UK PIG INDUSTRY

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

In my work leading the Agricultural Development in the Eastern Region (ADER) programme of sixteen different projects, I come across a cross section of folk from government agencies and what several of them are planning is worth flagging up now, so that maybe it's not such a shock when it arrives at the pig industry's door.

With lots of new directives arriving from Brussels a way needed to be found to put them in front of farmers in a straight-forward fashion. In a commendable piece of joined-up thinking, the various agencies (such as the Environment Agency) decided all to use a similar type of document.

These are called 'self assessment audits' and the idea is that each farmer sits down for an hour and works through a set of questions, choosing his answer from the best of four different descriptions.

He then notes the answers, and keeps the document in his farm office for anyone to look at in the future. By spending an hour filling it in, he's shown he has looked at that part of his farming operation ('due diligence' in their jargon).

Any bits that he feels can be improved can be noted as action points and when time and money allow, he can fix them.

The first self assessment audit to arrive in front of farmers is the Crop Protection Management Plan which is part of the Voluntary Initiative for arable farmers. The NFU have worked hard on making the questions and answers easy to understand and relevant. Farmers filling it in found the process enlightening on where they were strong and weak over the various parts of their operation.

The big departure with this whole process is that there is no pass and fail, there is no inspector breathing down your neck; it is just a statement of where you're at now and a general acceptance that over the coming years you'll try and steadily improve things.

The fact that the audit stays on the farm, and that as time goes by other audits for other parts of the farm are completed means that after a while a farmer can show anyone that he has taken positive steps.

So that's for arable guys. And n the drawing board is a fertiliser self assessment audit. Where it starts to involve pig farmers is that coming after that are self assessment audits on water, muck and slurry, and soils.

In total it's reckoned that over the next five years as many as ten self assessment audits will arrive on farm desks.

My message is that I don't think this should frighten us. If spending two hours a year demonstrates we are on top of the job, I think that's time well spent. If anyone wants to know more, and wants to chat it through ring me on (01638) 672120.

Source: National Pig Association - 22nd September 2003

5m Editor