Defra announces review of ‘bureaucratic’ farm inspection regime

PUBLISHED: 16:17 20 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:21 20 February 2018

Environment secretary Michael Gove speaking at the 2018 NFU Conference.
 Picture by Simon Hadley.

Environment secretary Michael Gove speaking at the 2018 NFU Conference. Picture by Simon Hadley.

Simon Hadley/

East Anglian farming leaders have welcomed a comprehensive review of “bureaucratic” farm inspections, announced by environment secretary Michael Gove.

The current inspection regime can result in farmers being visited by as many as five different bodies – the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England, The Animal Plant and Health Agency, the Environment Agency or their local authority – all asking for similar information.

Defra said the current rules under the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy require inspections of precise criteria such as field margin dimensions and the specific placement of trees in fields, while inspections over lapses such as slurry management and welfare standards are “often haphazard”.

The review will look at opportunities to relax the burden on farmers by reducing duplication, and improving regulation and enforcement, both before and after Brexit.

READ MORE: Animal welfare, broadband and research are ‘public goods’, says Michael Gove

Speaking at the NFU Conference in Birmingham, Mr Gove said: “The rules associated with current subsidy payments are unwieldy and, very often, counter-productive. They require farmers to spend long days ensuring conformity with bureaucratic processes which secure scarcely any environmental benefits and which, in turn, require a vast and inflexible bureaucracy to police.

“As does the current farming inspection regime, which, despite several recent attempts at simplification, remains as unwieldy as ever. Every year, farmers are confronted by a barrage of inspections from different agencies, often duplicating costs in both time and money.

“This review is not only long-required but also very timely as we guide our future approach and maximise the opportunities of leaving the EU. It will provide answers to some key general questions to guide our future approach, subject to the outcome of our negotiations with the EU.”

The review will be led by Dame Glenys Stacey, a former chief executive of Animal Health, a precursor to the current Animal and Plant Health Agency, who has first-hand knowledge of the inspection challenge facing farmers, as well as 20 years’ experience in public sector reform.

NFU East Anglia regional director Robert Sheasby welcomed the announcement, adding: “Norfolk farmers in particular have had a torrid time with inspections by remote sensing in particular, and anything that streamlines the administration of the Basic Payment Scheme in a way that does not hold back business cash-flows is absolutely welcome.”

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