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Route to fewer inspections for compliant farmers is good for rural areas says Farron

September 4, 2013 9:54 AM

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has welcomed the news that the number of farm inspections could be cut for farmers with a good record of compliance under government plans to cut red tape.

TF ruralDEFRA has set out its plans to implement an "earned recognition" approach to farm inspections to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on compliant farmers. Earned recognition was one of the key themes in the Farming Regulation Task Force report in May 2011, which made over 200 key recommendations to government on how regulatory burdens could be reduced.

Under the plans, farmers and businesses that have demonstrated a "strong track record of reliability and adherence" to high standards for on-farm inspections will earn recognition. Although DEFRA said this does not necessarily mean a reduction in the total number of on-farm, it will improve unity between inspecting bodies and target those who have historically shown a greater risk of non-compliance.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) will work with local authorities and farm assurance schemes to share information on animal feed inspections. Local authorities carry out around 13,000 animal feed inspections per year, but DEFRA wants to reduce this figure to 5,000, the report states.

The Environment Agency (EA) undertakes around 2,700 annual farm inspections to drive farm practices to protect and improve the environment. Main areas of regulatory activity include water quality, pollution prevention, waste management and water resource management.

The report states a "potential for applying an earned recognition approach" to these inspections, which are carried out using a "risk-based approach".

In 2011-12, more than 114,000 farm visits were made by government agencies in England, costing £47m. A report by the National Audit Office (NAO), published in December 2012, concluded farm inspections cost taxpayers too much money, were not streamlined or joined up enough and were a burden to compliant farmers.

Tim said: "Farm inspections are important but local farmers tell me that there are currently too many and they are deluged with red tape. The earned recognition will help farmers who meet the rules and allow the government to spend extra time on the small minority who need more inspections."