Committee review to focus on better regulation for farmers

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The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has launched an Inquiry into ‘Better Regulation’.

The Committee will examine the current regulatory framework within the agricultural industry and seek ways to reduce the administrative and regulatory burden on farmers.

As part of the inquiry, the Committee is calling on local farmers to take part in a short online survey to gauge their views on the current level of regulation, to discover which areas they find particularly onerous and what if anything can be done to simplify the regulatory process.

Speaking after the launch of the Inquiry, Committee Chairperson William Irwin MLA said: “The Committee has been concerned for some time about the onus placed upon local farmers by the ever increasing regulations emanating both at a Departmental and European level. Indeed many farmers have told us that the time commitment necessary to meet the administrative demands of modern farming is having a real impact on their ability to concentrate on the real work of farming.

“While some regulation is obviously necessary for the farmer and the industry as a whole, we want to assess if there are ways in which the current regulatory processes can be simplified or coalesced. We would strongly urge local farmers to take part in the online survey to help us to identify the key regulations that they feel are the most burdensome. This should also assist us in ensuring that our final recommendations present practical options for regulatory restructure and rationalisation.”

Committee Deputy Chairperson Joe Byrne MLA added: “We are also keen to look at the impact of regulations and the issues that arise for farmers through enforcement and sanctions. We are only too aware of how complex and seemingly convoluted many regulations and associated form filling can be, particularly when new ones are introduced, and where the necessary guidelines and explanatory information may not provide adequate support.”

Mr Byrne concluded: “During the course of the Inquiry we intend to seek evidence from farming organisations, food processors, industry experts and the Department, as well as carrying out a comparative analysis of the approach taken to regulations by other legislatures in both the UK and Ireland.”