NFU calls for Government action as report shines light on farm inspection concerns

Red tape review highlights array of problems, from duplication to poor communication

NFU better regulation adviser Lee Osborne
NFU better regulation adviser Lee Osborne

The NFU is calling on the Government to take action after farmers raised a number of serious concerns about on-farm inspections.

The organisation was one of three groups selected by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to lead a review of red tape known as the Business Focus on Enforcement initiative.

It says that farmers have provided evidence of inconsistency, a lack of clarity and communication, and the potential for duplication in inspections.

A report on the matter, which the NFU is encouraging Defra to act on as soon as possible, highlighted a number of key findings:

  • Farmers can be subject to visits from different regulators to gather the same data, meaning additional costs and time investment;

  • The frequency of visits can vary, with some farmers being subject to multiple inspections from a number of regulators in a short period of time;

  • A lack of expertise and knowledge on the part of some inspectors can jeopardise trust and undermine the inspection process;

  • It is not always clear to the regulated business what the purpose of the inspection is and why the farm has been selected for a visit; and

  • Improved communication and transparency around inspections would increase understanding while ensuring a better experience for the farm business as well as the regulator.

NFU better regulation adviser Lee Osborne said: “This review has given us the opportunity to carry out a study and gather evidence from an industry perspective for the first time to identify the impact on livestock farmers of current enforcement practices, in particular examining the potential for duplication and overlap between national and local regulators.

“We have been able to inform Ministers and regulators of our key findings during a cross-Whitehall committee.

“During this session the evidence was well received with considerable sympathy from Ministers – but we now need to see a commitment from Government for change.”

He added that the concerns regarding inspections would be shared with the next Government.

“While we realise that time left during this parliament doesn’t allow for any radical change, given the effort and time put into this work the NFU and its members expect to see a full response from Defra post-election,” he said.

“We need to see continued commitments by Defra and ministers to reduce the burden on compliant farmers and action taken to improve both the targeting and co-ordination of inspections so that duplication and overlap is reduced.”

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