Compliant farmers to face fewer inspections

The government has promised a more targeted approach to farm inspections to reduce the burden on farmers with a strong track record of abiding by regulation.

Farmers who are part of voluntary schemes such as the Environment Agency’s Pig and Poultry scheme and the Red Tractor Assurance scheme already benefit from fewer regulations.

And DEFRA is seeking to cut the number of inspections farmers must undergo in absolute terms as part of its plans for an “earned recognition” approach to farm inspections.

Farm minister George Eustice said compliant farmers will likely face fewer inspections in the future, but they will “still notice the ones they get” because the national government must satisfy strict EU rules on farm inspections.

Mr Eustice, who was a farmer himself for 10 years, said he “completely understands” the frustrations of farmers who feel they have “too much paperwork and it’s all pointless”.

“Having been a farmer myself and seen all the problems with paperwork and bureaucracy, I absolutely understand the frustrations of farmers [on red tape],” said the minister.

“We have got a number of pieces of work we are looking at internally to see whether we can improve things. My message to farmers is: ‘There’s a lot done, but there’s a lot more to do’.”

Mr Eustice was speaking to Farmers Weekly after the government launched the Red Tape Challenge, its latest review on farm regulation.

More than 500 agricultural, animal health and forestry regulations have been reviewed as part of the challenge.

As a result, 156 redundant regulations will now be scrapped, while a further 134 regulations will be simplified.

The changes are part of prime minister David Cameron’s pledge to slash 80,000 pages of DEFRA red tape , in a bid to boost the rural economy by an estimated £100m a year.

The government said cutting back “overcomplicated and outdated” red tape would make it easier for the agricultural industry to focus on their business and deliver economic growth.

Examples of some of the problems raised and measures government is taking in response include:

  • Farmers said the burden of inspections should be reduced. A more targeted approach to inspections will be developed to reduce the burden on farmers who have a strong track record of reliability and adherence to standards.
  • Farmers called for clearer guidance. The amount of guidance used by farmers will be reduced by 80%, making it easier for them and other businesses to comply with the rules. Current estimates suggest that, when completed, this will save all businesses £100m a year.
  • Agricultural businesses said data reporting obligations should be streamlined. Data reporting requirements for agricultural businesses will be reformed to remove duplicate and unnecessary requests for information. This will be completed by June next year.
  • The government was called on to proceed with reforming agricultural tenancy legislation, to simplify and modernise the rules governing the relationship between landlord and tenants. Proposals will be made available in the spring.

Richard Macdonald, chair of the Farming Regulation Task Force, said: “Today’s announcement to further cut paperwork and improve the targeting of inspections is another welcome step towards freeing farmers from unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Also see our video Q&A with George Eustice on red tape cuts