A COMPREHENSIVE review of farm inspections is to be held.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove made the announcement at this week's NFU conference in Birmingham.

The review will be led by Dame Glenys Stacey and will look at opportunities for improving regulation and enforcement pre- and post- Brexit.

It will also aim to reduce duplication, so farmers can get on with producing food and looking after wildlife and the environment.

The current inspection regime sees farmers visited by up to five different bodies – the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England, The Animal Plant and Health Agency, and the Environment Agency or local authority. All want similar information.

The rigidity of the Common Agriculture Policy also requires inspections of precise criteria such as field margin dimensions and the specific placement of trees in fields. Equally, inspections over lapses such as slurry management and welfare standards are often haphazard.

The review comes as the government is preparing an agriculture Command Paper that will consult on future policy after we leave Europe.

Mr Gove described rules around current subsidy payments as "unwieldy and, very often, counter-productive".

They require farmers to spend long days ensuring conformity with bureaucratic processes which secure scarcely any environmental benefits and which, in turn, require a vast and inflexible bureaucracy to police.

"As does the current farming inspection regime which, despite several recent attempts at simplification, remains as unwieldy as ever," he said.

"Every year, farmers are confronted by a barrage of inspections from different agencies, often duplicating costs in both time and money."

Mr Gove said the review would be thorough and comprehensive "seeing how these inspections can be removed, reduced or improved to reduce the burden on farmers, while maintaining and enhancing our animal and plant health standards."

“This review is not only long-required, but also very timely as we guide our future approach and maximise the opportunities of leaving the EU. It will provide answers to some key general questions to guide our future approach, subject to the outcome of our negotiations with the EU.”

Dame Glenys Stacey said: "With farming at the heart of the quality and safety of the food on our plate and central to the stewardship of our wildlife, land and rivers, this is an excellent time to be working with farmers and their representatives, and all those who inspect farms, so as to get to a sensible inspection regime, post-Brexit."

Dame Glenys has more than 20 years’ experience in driving reform within public sector organisations. As a former chief executive of Animal health – a precursor to today's Animal and Plant Health Agency – she is well versed in the inspection challenge facing farmers.