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Major simplification of farm inspections and regulations proposed

PUBLISHED: 09:24 12 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:24 12 July 2018

A crop sprayer at work in mid Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A crop sprayer at work in mid Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

A radical simplification of farm inspections and "unduly precise and inflexible" regulations after Brexit has been proposed to the government by an independent review.

The interim report published by Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the Farm Inspection and Regulation Review, estimates 150,000 farm inspections are carried out each year by multiple agencies such as the Rural Payments Agency, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Natural England and local authorities to meet the strict criteria of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

It says Brexit offers the opportunity to implement a “single field force” to conduct “more meaningful farm inspections, as part of a more flexible, proportionate regulation”. It also recommends better use of technology such as satellite imagery to check compliance.

Dame Glenys said: “Farmers have long been frustrated by the way farms are regulated. As we leave the EU and as government sets out new expectations for farming, we have a unique opportunity to transform the way we do things.

“This interim report sets out a direction of travel for farming regulation. We do not suggest piecemeal adjustments. Instead we think more radical change is necessary, to make the most of the opportunity we have now, and to best enable farmers to produce and market food while also meeting the other expectations government has of farming.”

Defra says tightly-drawn European regulation can have “adverse consequences for farm businesses”, adding: “Farmers face an unduly extensive and complex array of regulatory requirements. Some of those requirements seem illogical as well as inflexible, bringing farming regulation into disrepute.”

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Dame Glenys makes a thorough and compelling case for fundamental changes to the existing inspection and regulation framework. The regulation on farmers under the CAP has imposed an extra bureaucratic headache on farmers, with no room to recognise innovation or good intent.”

The independent review was announced in February to simplify the way farmers and landowners are regulated as Britain leaves the EU.

It is due to complete its work by the end of this year and will publish a final report with recommendations to the government.

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