More than half the initial cross-compliance inspections have resulted in failure, and a picture of disarray in the inspection procedure has emerged from figures obtained by Farmers Weekly.

The figures were contained in a document that also prompts concern over the way in which farms are being selected for inspection.

The inspections of 1205 earmarked farms began in September 2005 to meet EU regulations and should have been completed by 31 December.

But by the end of November, according to the leaked figures, inspectors had managed to complete just 3.2% of
those earmarked.

Of that early sample, 53% of the farms could face penalties for non-compliance ranging from one to 100%.

An additional set of 5500 inspections on cattle producers, carried out via the British Cattle Movement Service records, also showed a high rate of failures. More than 25% of farmers had failed to meet all of the cross-compliance rules.

What could concern farmers further is the way that the RPA chooses which farms to inspect.

The RPA itself will not divulge publicly how it chooses whom to inspect.

But Farmers Weekly has learned that just 250 out of the 1205 farm businesses were chosen on a random basis.

The rest are carefully targeted with inspection selections based on Single Payment Scheme applications or on tip-offs from local authorities or the public.

According to the document leaked to FW, The Ramblers Association put forward some of the names and addresses of the farms which the RPA then agreed to add to its inspection list.

The Ramblers Association was unavailable for comment, but NFU SPS adviser Richard Wordsworth defended farmers who were being punished by the rigorous inspections conducted on sometimes unworkable criteria.

“We have to be seen by the public to be justifying the support payments we receive, but good and honest professionals are falling foul of sometimes unworkable requirements, particularly cattle identification under cross-compliance,” said Mr Wordsworth.

An RPA spokesman defended the progress made and said that the 2005 inspections would be completed by the first
week of April.

The spokesman pointed out that the 2005 inspections did not start until September for a number of reasons, including delays in using the new IT facilities to provide risk data, and completion of training programmes.

“Not enough inspections have been fully completed to give a full picture,” the spokesman added.