A major simplification of farming regulation in the UK has been proposed in an interim report published by Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the farm inspection and regulation review. The interim report sets out current regulatory problems, largely borne out of the requirements of membership of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The report finds that farmers and regulators alike are exasperated by the demands of regulation, which are unduly precise and inflexible. Brexit has provided an opportunity to realign the relationship between regulators and farmers. Regulators admit some regulations are unduly precise and inflexible, and tightly-drawn European regulation can have adverse consequences for farm businesses and lead to a lack of transparency in the food chain.
Relations have soured, with flexible regulation leading farmers to hide their mistakes. The Review estimates 150,000 farm inspections are carried out each year by multiple agencies such as the Rural Payments Agency, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Natural England and local authorities to meet the strict criteria of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the Farm Inspection and Regulation Review said ‘farmers have long been frustrated by the way farms are regulated. As we leave the EU and as government sets out new expectations for farming, we have a unique opportunity to transform the way we do things.’
Single field force
The report discusses the opportunity to use a single field force to conduct more meaningful farm inspections, as part of a more flexible, proportionate regulation. The aim is to have a regulatory system and tools that government’s environmental objectives while supporting farmers to uphold standards. Farming legislation has evolved and accreted in a piecemeal way over many years. Farmers face an unduly extensive and complex array of regulatory requirements. The report notes some of those requirements seem illogical as well as inflexible, bringing farming regulation into disrepute. The interim report also recommends better use of technology such as satellite imagery to check compliance, maximising the information gathered ahead of any inspection to support comprehensive visits for farmers and regulators alike. The Review is due to complete its work by the end of this year and will publish a final report with recommendations.