UK - The UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be enacting administration budget reductions of 26 per cent by 2019-20, announced as part of the Chancellor's spending review.
Defra called the efficiencies programme "ambitious" and said the savings would be delivered by sharing back office functions like IT, human resources and finance with its network bodies to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, and devolving roles to the local frontline to ensure effective service delivery.
Overall, Defra's day-to-day operating budget will be cut by 15 per cent in real terms by 2019-20.
In welcome news for farmers, the department also plans to create net savings to business of £470 million by reducing the red tape burden. As part of this, Defra aims to cut farm inspections by 20,000 by 2019-20 using a Single Farm Inspection Taskforce.
Defra also said it would invest over £130 million in its science estates and equipment, including funding to enhance national outbreak response capabilities, and it will continue to invest in implementing its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.
NFU chief economic adviser Gail Soutar said: "We must wait for more details before understanding the full impact of this on farmers.
"It is reassuring that the flood defence budget will be ring-fenced and that the Government will prioritise spending on animal and plant disease prevention, for example by continuing to invest in implementing its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis."
Ms Soutar expressed disappointment that there was no mention of improved broadband access for farmers, urging the government to commit to superfast broadband delivery.
“It is disappointing that the Government has decided to end the micro employer relaxation of PAYE ‘on or before’ reporting from April 2016," Ms Soutar added.
"This will impose a significant additional burden on many agricultural businesses engaging seasonal workers at harvest time. Larger employers will, however, be concerned at the rate of the new Apprenticeship Levy of 0.5% of payroll costs from April 2017.”
Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss said: "With today’s settlement we can now plan for the future.
"This strong funding settlement means we can press ahead with our vital work to protect the country from floods and animal and plant disease, put in place stronger protections for our natural landscape and deliver on our commitments for a cleaner, healthier environment which benefits people and the economy."
TheFishSite News Desk
Top image via Shutterstock