Regulation of the environment is of critical importance in protecting our wildlife and natural environment. Without it, our rivers and seas would still be packed with pollution – we would still be the ‘dirty man of Europe’. Regulation also has a key role to play in driving up standards.
The Wildlife Trusts support the direction of travel set out in the agriculture bill currently making its way through parliament, however, the bill says little about regulation. There are real environmental risks hidden in the removal of direct subsidy that most farmers receive because there are strings attached to these payments. It should be clear in the agriculture bill therefore that receipt of public payments is dependent on adhering to regulatory standards.
Whilst losing the link between funding and adhering to rules is a key risk, we agree with Dame Glenys Stacey’s conclusions that the current approach to farm regulation is too inflexible – something as farmers and land managers, Wildlife Trusts know all too well. This is less about the rules themselves, and more about the interpretation of the rules which can be extremely punitive and involve disproportionately harsh sanctions.
The Wildlife Trusts believe that regulation needs to be:
- Adequately resourced – it is not acceptable that farms have a 1 in 200 chance of being visited by an Environment Agency inspector at the moment, a result of sever government cut backs.
- Demonstrating leadership – we need regulation to be about more than finding out where rules are being broken. It should be purpose led and help drive up standards.
- Well integrated – we need our regulatory agencies to be integrated and working together to the same purpose, so that their interface with the public is smooth.
We welcome the report’s proposals that inspectors act also as advisors, giving practical advice, guidance and helping to incentivise good practice – working with rather than doing to farmers and land managers with the core purpose of improving the natural environment as well as animal health and welfare.
The Wildlife Trusts look forward to engaging in the public consultation on farm regulation and inspection in the New Year.
 Read our latest blog on the bill here - https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/ellie-brodie/mps-be-countrysides-santa-not-scrooge
 See Dame Glenys Stacey’s interim report (p. 30) here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/724785/farm-inspection-review-interim-report.pdf