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Scotland’s chief agricultural officer on what to expect from farm inspections

David Barnes is one of the speakers at the event
David Barnes is one of the speakers at the event

Earlier this week Scottish Government confirmed on-farm inspects would start before the June 15 Single Application Form (SAF) deadline. Scotland’s chief agricultural officer David Barnes explains more about the inspections process

Inspections are fundamental to ensuring that Cap money is paid where it is due, and under European Commission regulations, the Scottish Government must carry out a set number of inspections every year. This is to confirm that conditions are being met under the various payment schemes we manage.

Whilst it’s always been possible to start inspections while the Single Application Form (SAF) window is open, it’s not something we’ve done before in Scotland but we will this year because of the extension to the SAF window.

The likelihood of being selected for inspection will not be affected by when the SAF was submitted.

In line with the rules on how inspections are selected, for the tiny number of businesses that fit the selection criteria it is simply a matter of when, and not if, there will be an inspection. So there is no benefit in delaying getting your SAF in once it is finalised.

It’s important to be aware that once a business has been notified of an inspection, it will not be possible to make any further amends to that SAF.

So if you have already submitted your SAF and think you might need to amend it, you should contact your local area office as soon as possible.

Of course, only a small percentage of farms are inspected each year, as required by Europe, and so the vast majority of farmers and crofters will be untouched.

But if your farm is one of the very few selected for inspection, whether now or later in the year, then here is what you can expect.

Inspections are usually carried out by a single officer from the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspectorate Department (RPID), although they may be accompanied by colleagues and auditors from the European Commission.

In addition, some inspections are carried out by other agencies, for example the Animal and Plant Health Agency (AHVLA) who inspect the animal welfare parts of cross compliance.

During these inspections, the officer will check that details you have provided to us about your business are correct and that certain regulations are being met.

There are strict EU rules about advance notice of inspections. In some cases we are allowed to give notice, usually of up to a maximum of 48 hours. But inspections will have to be unannounced where the EU rules require it.

Upon arriving at your farm our inspector will explain the purpose of their visit, the reason for the inspection and how the inspection will be carried out. They will explain what they need from you and how long they expect the inspection to take.

RPID inspectors can inspect all parts of your business, including land, crops, buildings, the animals you keep and any associated records.

They can check the details of claims and applications you have made and if you are the registered keeper of livestock, they will check you have met identification and traceability regulations.

For land-based schemes, our inspector will check any land you have claimed against is eligible for funding. This will involve measuring fields and excluding areas such as roads, buildings, scrub, gorse or bracken. They may also ask to see documents that support your land claims, for example, rental agreements for seasonal grazing.

Under European Commission regulations, livestock inspections must be carried out to ensure public health and animal disease control are being properly considered. Inspectors will check the livestock official identities, holding register entries, supporting documentation including movement documents and passports, and that notifications have been reported correctly and on time to the official databases, including ScotEID and the Cattle Tracing System.

During cross-compliance inspections, our inspector will check that a number of requirements relating to how you run your business are being met. This can involve visually checking land, physically checking animals and examining records.

When our inspector has completed their inspection, they will give you a summary of their findings and, where possible, explain any problems found. They will give you an opportunity to provide written comments when you sign the report form.

You can help make inspections run smoothly by taking the following steps:

o Make sure all submissions and applications submitted to us are accurate and up-to-date; keep copies and make sure your records can be easily located.

o Where appropriate, you should accompany our inspector during their inspection of your holdings.

o For livestock inspections, you can help by making sure official eartags are correct and present.

o You should be prepared to present your animals and make sure that facilities for handling the livestock are suitable and well-maintained.

o For cattle, use the online Cattle Tracing System to check your animal registration and movement information, and correct any mistakes on the system.

If you disagree with the outcome of your inspection or would like to clarify any points, you can ask the inspecting officer for an explanation.

You are also entitled to appeal any decision relating to inspections, which must be lodged within the prescribed timeframe after receiving your inspection results. Further details of the appeals procedure can be found on Rural Payments and Services online or by contacting your local area office.

Further details on the types of inspections we carry out can be found online at Rural Payments and Services, where there you can also watch a helpful video that explains the process. Alternatively, you can speak to your local RPID area office for further guidance.