One single thing that most businesses doctors, police, schoolteachers and anyone in authority would like to reduce is red tape, ie rules and regulations which appear to defy common sense and reduce productivity.

As technology improves we need less and less people actually producing anything, leaving more time for the rest of the population to either write rules or argue the legality and merits of them.

The unique problem for agriculture is that it was society’s basic way of life for thousands of years and it now embraces so many aspects of that life that virtually every rule ever written affects todays farmers. The rule books are now so verbose that no self-employed farmer has time to read them and the overkill obliterates the common sense. When the Ten Commandments were written, 179 words covered everything.

A few hundred years later the US Declaration of Independence required 1,300 words.

Today, EU regulations on the sale of cabbages run to 26,911 words. This is one tiny example of what every farmer faces when it comes to food safety, pesticide legislation, environmental audits, noise pollution, water pollution, road traffic acts for agricultural vehicles, employment law, pest control, disposal of public rubbish dumped on farmland... the list goes on and on and every heading has a hundred sub-headings.

It is a lawyers’ paradise and a farmers’ nightmare and I suspect many farmers could be prosecuted for some offence almost every day because there simply is not the time or the resources to study all these rules.

The most obvious example of a world gone mad must be the farm subsidy system.

Whether or not readers agree with farm subsidies is a separate matter, the concerning issue is the constantly-changing rule book and the amount of time taken up by farmers, advisers, farm secretarys, the Rural Payments Agency and the army of people involved in Whitehall and Brussells.

This army seems to relish changing rules every year, prosecuting or fining any farmer who makes a genuine mistake whilst playing the most ingenious tricks to avoid censorship for their own misdemeanours.

Every farmer, even the struggling dairy farmer who is milking cows twice a day and battling the weather and TB, has to fill in forms declaring number of livestock, hectares farmed to within two decimal places, crops grown, area devoted to environmental focus etc.

Each year we are told that this is best done online but each year the computers get overloaded, the rules change and another problem arises.

It will soon be time to fill these forms in again but a significant number of farmers have not been paid for last year and, worse still, a majority of businesses that have actually received payment know it is wrong but haven’t received paperwork telling them why.

Only 1,000 out of 70,000 farmers paid so far have actually received an accounts statement.

Of those 1,000 many have found that one or two whole fields have been deleted from their claim. Is this a genuine mistake or some cynical attempt to avoid the risk of overpaying anyone, which would of course mean a fine for our own government from the EU.

Either way, it means the RPA still have a mountain of work to sort out the 2015 payments and their desks and computers will be full of 2016 claims again next month.

No doubt justification can be found for every rule. I would be the first to call for action if a friend or relation was hurt in an avoidable accident.

Farmers cannot expect to get away with damaging the environment, falsely making claims for subsidy, or driving on the highway with faulty trailer brakes but the huge challenge facing society is how to make rules workable without stifling business. Simply, we all need to be responsible for own actions. Surely, that is what the 179 words of the Ten Commandments said.