A major simplification of the way the UK regulates farming has been proposed in an interim report published today by Dame Glenys Stacey, Chairwoman of the Farm Inspection and Regulation Review (FIRR).

The report outlines Brexit opportunities to build a new relationship between farmers and regulators.

It also sets out proposals for more adaptive and flexible regulation including simplified inspections for farmers.

The interim report sets out the problems with the current system of regulation, largely borne out of the requirements of membership of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Building a new relationship

It finds that farmers are “exasperated” by the demands of regulation, which are unduly precise and inflexible.

“The way we regulate now exasperates responsible farmers and regulators alike. Some of our regulations are unduly precise and inflexible,” it states.

“Tightly-drawn European regulation can have adverse consequences for farm businesses and lead to a lack of transparency in the food chain.

It inevitably sours relationships between the farmer and the regulatory authority. Inflexible regulation can lead farmers to hide their mistakes and naturally, that undermines any trust between the regulating authority and the farmer.

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.

Ideas put forward

It discusses the opportunity to use a single field force to conduct more meaningful farm inspections, as part of a more flexible, proportionate regulation.

The interim report also recommends better use of technology – such as satellite imagery – to check compliance.

This could maximise the information gathered ahead of any inspection to support comprehensive visits for farmers and regulators alike.

Dame Glenys Stacey, chairwoman 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 the Government sets out new expectations for farming, we have a unique opportunity to transform the way we do things.

“We do not suggest piecemeal adjustments. Instead, we think more radical change is necessary, to make the most of the opportunity we have now, and to best enable farmers to produce and market food while also meeting the other expectations government has of farming.”

Secretary of State Michael Gove said: “The regulation on farmers under the CAP has imposed an extra bureaucratic headache on farmers, with no room to recognise innovation or good intent.

“The interim findings of this independent report will be a key consideration in the plans for our future Environmental Land Management Scheme, for which an effective regulatory regime is crucial. This will work to enhance the excellent work farmers to do manage and protect the environment.”

Review progress

The independent review was announced in February to simplify the way farmers and landowners are regulated as we leave the EU.

The strict requirements of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) mean that many inspectors are currently not able to use discretion or exercise their own judgment.

The review is due to complete its work by the end of this year and will publish a final report with its recommendations.