25 February 2000
Robertson axed after Checkmate row

By Donald MacPhail

A LEADING critic of the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme has been relieved of his duties with the Federation of Small Businesses.

Bob Robertson, FSB agricultural spokesman, argues the ACCS is anti-competitive and attempting to close markets to non-registered cereal growers.

He was dismissed after releasing a press statement highly critical of Checkmate International, the company which runs the scheme.

Checkmate was incensed with the press release, which drew attention to the alleged salaries of its directors and the plight of many farmers.

It could now bring a libel action against Mr Robertson.

Stephen Alambritis, FSB head of press and parliamentary affairs, said Mr Robertson had left the organisation no option but to dismiss him.

“It was a flagrant breach of rules to issue a press statement on our headed paper without going through the organisation.”

The 150,000-member FSB is now seeking a new spokesman for its 3000 farming members.

But it has not ruled out a return for Mr Robertson, provided he abides by the organisations rules in the future.

Mr Robertson conceded he may have made a mistake by not having the press release checked.

But he refused to back down.

“I feel that I achieved my aim of putting the issue into the public domain, and I wont withdraw.

“If it comes to it, Ill probably defend myself in court.”

Many farmers have voiced their support for Mr Robertson.

Dick Lindley, vice-chairman of Wakefield NFU, said: “Bob has done a sterling job for small farmers.

“While the NFU [hierarchy] has pandered to big businesses, Bob has spoken out without fear or favour for members.”

Mr Lindley wants to create of a register of agricultural merchants and co-operatives willing to buy from non-ACCS registered farmers.

The register would enable farmers to purchase seed, fertilisers and animal foodstuffs only from organisations prepared to buy non-ACCS produced cereals.