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Union Seeks Inspection Regime that is Fit For Purpose

NFU Scotland has held discussions with the European Commission to look at a new inspection regime for support schemes based around self-regulation by the farming industry. The Union believes a new system, if deemed suitable, could generate wins for Europe, Member States and farmers.

Under existing cross-compliance inspection rules, relatively minor rule breaches can see heavy penalties imposed on businesses claiming under such schemes as the Single Farm Payment (SFP), Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) and the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme (SBCS).

A new inspection regime would still need to operate in line with EC standards. However, accredited self-regulation would allow farmers to break out from the present raft of official inspections and the cross compliance penalty system.  It is suggested that a new audit body could offer a pre-inspection visit system - like a pre-MOT check for a vehicle - that could ensure all systems were compliant before the official annual audit took place.  Membership of the audit body could lift farmers out of a formal inspection by the competent authority,

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:

“The current inspection and penalty regime around schemes such as SFP and LFASS generates significant fear because relatively minor breaches can result in draconian penalties that can undermine whole farm businesses. The proposed reform of the CAP gives us the opportunity to rip up the rulebook and identify an inspection regime that is fit for purpose. 

“The answer may lie in self-regulation, where an accredited audit body carries out an annual inspection covering both farm assurance and all relevant cross-compliance rules. Self-regulation in this manner could remove the risk of a formal inspection by the competent authority, and remove the threat of penalties being applied to support payments. 

“Voluntary involvement in such an accreditation scheme could have advantages and disadvantages for farmers but if it is not for them, then farmers can remain with current cross compliance arrangements.   Even if it came at an additional cost, we believe many farmers would look positively on membership of a new audit body if it lifted them out of existing cross compliance checks and the risk of swingeing penalties on their business.  

“Discussions on the subject are at a very early stage but Europe appears to have an open mind on a system that could improve general compliance levels with existing rules.  At the same time, Member States could reduce inspection levels, cut the burden on the appeals procedure and lower the potential for failing any EU audit. With potential wins for Europe, the Member State and farmers, accreditation and self-regulation is a route that merits further development and discussion in the coming weeks and months.”     

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 73/11


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