Farm inspections and regulations could be set for “major simplification” following an independent review proposing changes to the current system after Brexit.
The interim report published by Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the Farm Inspection and Regulation Review, estimates that 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.
Under the current system farmers must comply with the strict criteria of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the report found that both farmers and regulators are “exasperated” by the demands of current regulation, which it says are “unduly precise and inflexible”.
According to the independent review, Brexit presents an opportunity to use a “single field force” to conduct “more meaningful farm inspections, as part of a more flexible, proportionate regulation”.
Glenys calls for a simpler and more targeted regulatory system, which he says would be more effective in achieving the government’s environmental objectives and supporting farmers to uphold standards.
He added: “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."
Defra secretary Michael Give agreed that regulation of farmers under CAP has imposed “an extra bureaucratic headache on farmers, with no room to recognise innovation or good intent.”
He added: “Dame Glenys makes a thorough and compelling case for fundamental changes to the existing inspection and regulation framework.”