26 June 1998
‘High-handed’ inspectors rile North Yorks dairymen
By Alan Barker
DAIRY farmers in North Yorkshire are angry at what they describe as the increasingly unacceptable antics of the dairy hygiene inspectorate.
Geoff Bean, of Salton Lodge Farm, Kirkbymoorside, ordered an inspector off his farm when a request to book an appointment at a more convenient time was ignored. Mr Bean said the inspectorate appeared to have become more pedantic and was harassing producers and lumping them with unwanted expense.
He suggested the activities of the inspectors based with the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency in Leeds had more to do with justifying their own “blatantly discourteous and non-productive existence”.
When the inspector arrived unannounced, Mr Bean said he was up to his neck in paper work finalising end-of-year figures for an appointment with his accountant that afternoon.
Time for his mid-day milking was also rapidly approaching. When polite requests to book an appointment at a more convenient time were ignored, the inspector was ordered off the farm.
That resulted in a warning letter that failure to allow an inspection could lead to cancellation of his milk producer registration and a ban on the sale of his milk for human consumption.
In a letter to his MP, John Greenway, Mr Bean suggested the current system resembled “an extortion and protection racket of which Al Capone would have been proud.”
He is meeting Mr Greenway tomorrow (Saturday, 27 June) to relate the recent experiences of a number of Yorkshire dairy farmers. He will be joined by Carol Simpson, of Prospect Farm, Gillamoor, who is angry that a hygiene inspection took place at her farm when no was at home.
John Stanley, senior dairy hygiene officer at Leeds, denied that the inspectorate was being pedantic. Inspectors were only enforcing a legal requirement.
But he suggested that, at a time of falling milk prices and reduced labour availability, many farmers were finding routine jobs of parlour maintenance and cleaning more difficult.
Very few farms received a second visit. The vast majority were issued with forms enabling self-certification that the required improvements had been carried out. That avoided any additional cost to the farmer.
Mr Stanley said appointments for farm visits used to be made, but that the principle of hygiene inspections was to see conditions as they were on a day-to-day basis.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 26 June-2 July, 1998