Anton Coaker: Red tape burden

Discussion in 'Agricultural Matters' started by News, May 8, 2014.

  1. News

    News Staff Member

    Apparently the burden of red tape is being lifted from us whingey farmers. Well that’s some good news. In fact, it’s a bare faced outright lie, the burden is worsening.

    Never mind the hard work, acumen and investment required to make the actual farming happen, the skills and patience required to negotiate the paper trail of Government rules and schemes generate would make your eyes water. Sadly, without the payments attached to some of the schemes, we’d be in trouble, so we have to knuckle under. It’s taken the job from something akin to the bucolic idyll you and I might imagine, instead driving us into a crippling and demoralising waste of time chasing forms and paperwork.
    You don’t believe me? You believe the lies about how the burden is being lifted? Examples from where I’m sitting?

    Individual Sheep ID is steadily creeping up on us. Where I used to put in an ear-notch pattern, which cost nothing and was locally unique to my flock –and handed down over generations, very soon it’ll be a legal requirement to have 2 micro-chips in each ewe. It’ll then become just about impossible to work without owning a scanner to read these chips. Both chips and scanners cost real money, and are notoriously sulky in wet conditions- such as misty moorland hillsides, where we raise sheep.

    Reason? Some scientists once mistakenly tested a load of old cow brains for BSE, thinking they were sheep brains –it’s a long and sorry tale of procedural cock-up-. Finding lots of BSE, as they would’ve back then, the assumption was that UK sheep were a ticking timebomb. A panicky ID plan was hatched in readiness for this epidemic… but when the error was uncovered (sheep cannot get BSE unless you actually inject their brains with it) DEFRA just couldn’t quite abandon the plans.

    It remains one of the most sorry tales of incompetence and subsequent pointless idiocy in UK agriculture.

    Cattle movements and licences. It used to be the case that I could rent a field from old Bill Bloggs down the road, drop some bullocks in it to eat the grass, and bring them home again when they were fat and glossy, - preferably before they ran out of Bill’s grass, and took a shine to cousin Fred’s field of spring corn nextdoor. Nowadays, this transaction involves various licences and papertrails, and will likely soon require individual TB tests either way. DEFRA are openly screwing down the rules, while bragging that phasing out the simplest licence is a cut in red tape. Again, that’s a flagrant lie, as the alternative brings a huge burden.

    And I’m not going to mention the proposed extra testing regime being dumped on us to graze the common. With rules still being decided, the one thing clear is that it’ll involve yet more licences and forms.

    Reason? Officially, the excuse is this all helps reduce TB. In fact, it won’t help one jot since, down here at least, we’re all already testing all the time. The elephant in that room is our furry little - untested & unlicensed- friends.

    Medicine Records. My poor little wife –who bears the brunt of not only my peculiarities, but all of this beaurocracy – has to maintain a list of EVERY treatment we give the stock. Dates, ear numbers, batch numbers, meat withdrawal periods, and more dates. Even ‘reason for treatment’ – as if we spend £300-400 on cattle wormer because I like the smell, or because I had nothing to do this week.

    Inspectors are increasingly hot on details.

    Reason? Fair enough, with meat going into the food chain, we ought to show we’re not poisoning anyone. And the rise of anti-biotic resistant superbugs are an issue. But this simply doesn’t relate to many of the products we use, and anyway, I’m legally obliged to withhold from slaughter where required.

    Keeping records of vaccines you could pretty likely drink neat? What possible purpose does that serve?

    Licences and permits generally.

    Creeping in over the years, there’s permits required for everything. The latest is an upcoming proof of training to drive the 7.5 tonner, where I have to complete 5 days of training before September. This might be 5 days repeating the same course, which doesn’t have to cover driving the truck in question…but’s let’s gloss over that.

    Somewhere in the mound of such things are licences to buy sheep dip and use it, another to dispose of the used dip, one to burn hedge trimmings, and one to load cattle and transport them along a highway-although the Elves warn me that one expires after 5 years, since I might forget how to move livestock.

    Reason? Search me.

    Red tape reduction? An insulting lie.

    About the author

    Originally published in The Western Morning News, these articles are reproduced for the enjoyment of TFF members World-wide by kind permission of the author Anton Coaker and the WMN

    Anton Coaker is a fifth generation farmer keeping suckler cows and flocks of hill sheep high on the Forest of Dartmoor and running a hardwood and mobile sawmill.

    A prodigious writer and regular correspondent for The Western Morning News, NFU and The Farming Forum, Anton’s second book “The Complete Bullocks” is available from

    Anton's previous articles can be found here:
  2. RobFZS

    RobFZS Member

    Red tape will never ever be cut, its what keeps the job figures down just like 0 hour contracts makes 4 jobs out of one persons hours, this is the price we pay for a 'services' sector.
    7610 super q likes this.
  3. gone up the hill

    One of the best articles iv seen him write and 100 % speaking the truth, never has the red tape burden in farming been worse and realistically with cattle/ sheep movements/ licences to move stock/ permission to burn hedge cuttings etc only going to get worse in time given that it keeps people in the civil service in a job..
    7610 super q and jade35 like this.

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