Anxiety grows over costs of assurance
By Tony McDougal
NFU chiefs are pressing ahead with farm assurance schemes for the cereals and dairy sectors despite protests from grass-roots members that they are bureaucratic, costly and will not raise standards.
The NFU Council dismissed two resolutions from the north-east, which had urged the union to withdraw from the assured combinable crops scheme (ACCS) and halt the rise in farm assurance ventures.
North-east regional delegate Bill Bradley said there was widespread anxiety among members that farmers would soon be paying out for five or six visiting farm assurance assessors a year: "There is a concern that we are getting into something that will only add costs and not lead to any advantages."
The NFU recently circulated a document for a dairy farm assurance scheme, and former Devon NFU chairman Richard Kallaway said it was important that farmers did not end up paying twice – once for statutory MAFF dairy hygiene inspections and then for assessors checking the husbandry and welfare of stock.
The dairy farm assurance working group, which compromises the NFU, Dairy Industry Federation, British Cattle Veterinary Association and UK Federation of Milk Producing Organisations, has been hoping to bring together milk hygiene, husbandry and welfare inspections but has had little support from MAFF so far.
NFU president, Sir David Naish, said he hoped to keep down the number of verifiers visiting farms, but added that realistically some of the verifications would have to be split.
Peter Limb, chairman of the ACCS steering group, released price details of the scheme, saying cereal farmers with less than 30ha (74 acres) would pay just £95 to join. There will be six pricing sections, according to farm size, with the largest producer paying about £300. Average membership fee will be £180. *