07 June 1999
Action group buoyed-up by whole farm scheme

By Isabel Davies

HOPES are high among supporters of the Midland Farm Action Group (MFAG) following the launch of Englands first whole farm assurance scheme last week.

The group, which was formed by growers frustrated by the number of assurance schemes and the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme in particular, has backed the new scheme developed by Genesis Quality Assurance Limited.

“We feel that the new scheme delivers to our principle of developing a practical, cost effective whole farm assurance scheme involving minimal paperwork” said Michael Cook, speaking on behalf of MFAG.

“It will bring producer interests back into the frame.”

He claimed farmers had been backed into a corner by existing schemes run by organisations with a vested interest.

The basis of Genesis Quality Assurance is that it is a whole farm assurance scheme covering all main enterprises including horticulture.

Key to the concept is a “practical” approach. Farmers would be required to go no further than following current legislation and MAFF Codes of Practice. And there would be only one inspection despite how many enterprises the farm had, saving farmers both money and time.

The inspection would be annual, paid for by Genesis, and made by an independent verifier.

Part of the check would involve examining declaration forms specific to each enterprise.

Livestock farmers would have to produce a declaration signed by their vet to say that the farm complied with welfare regulations and a checklist of protocols.

Arable farmers would need their declarations signed by a BASIS qualified agronomist. If a farmer was BASIS qualified himself he could sign this himself.

The unit would also be assessed by means of a simple visual appraisal. The basic charge for an arable unit would be between £120 and £300 for the first enterprise with additional enterprises being charged on a sliding scale.

Organisers of the scheme claim that they have already met with a very positive response.

“The response we have had from both the agricultural trade and the retail sector have been most encouraging,” said Martin Barker, managing director of Genesis Quality Assurance Limited.

He said that all the major retailers had given their support to the scheme. And in the longer term the objective was to establish the mark throughout the food chain and bring it to the attention of consumers.

“Existing schemes are not recognised by consumers. We aim to make sure that GQ is a single quality mark that consumers can identify with,” Mr Barker added.