31 July 1998
‘High-handed’ inspectors upset
northern dairymen

By Jeremy Hunt

CUMBRIAN dairy farmer Jim Webster has been told by a milk and dairy regulations inspector from the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency (FRCA) that his inspection took precedence over the farmers own pre-arranged medical appointment.

It is the latest in a growing list of complaints from northern dairy farmers about the high-handed attitude of inspectors who are making unannounced and often unaccompanied inspections.

Mr Webster, Page Bank, Rampside, Barrow-in-Furness, said the inspector arrived on the farm on the day his veterinary surgeon was to pay his routine visit, and the day he had a private medical appointment.

But, even when the inspector was told this and asked if he could come back a little later, he insisted that because he was already at the farm then his inspection took priority.

Asked if that interpretation was correct, the inspectors supervisor at the FRCA, John Stanley, wrote back pointing out that an obstacle to adequate inspection could result in the cancellation of the producers registration. Mr Webster, who accepts his absence would be seen as an obstacle to adequate inspection, interpreted the letter as a tactful way of saying: “Dont mess with us sonny, or well break you.”

But, since the inspectors visit was unannounced, he could quite reasonably have moved to the next farm and come back later.

It would have caused no-one any inconvenience, Mr Webster maintained. “You have to wonder what sort of person feels his own convenience as an inspector is more important than someones health and their medical treatment,” he said.

The inspectorate has been accused of becoming increasingly pedantic, and different inspectors are interpreting the rules in different ways.

While Mr Websters inspector has ordered him to install washing facilities in the dairy, rather than using the farmhouse kitchen, another inspector was telling a neighbouring farmer to tear out the sink from his dairy.

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 31 July-6 August, 1998
  • Click here to subscribe to Farmers Weekly