11 June 1999
Farmers back new assurance scheme
By FW reporters
A FARMERS group set up to challenge existing farm assurance schemes has thrown its weight behind a new whole-farm scheme launched last week.
The Midland Farmers Action Group (MFAG) was formed by growers angry at the paperwork and extra costs generated by an increasing number of assurance schemes.
The group criticised the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme in particular and is now backing a new scheme developed by Genesis Quality Assurance instead.
This scheme delivers to our principle of a practical, cost effective, whole- farm scheme involving minimal paperwork, said Michael Cook of MFAG.
He claimed that farmers had been backed into a corner by existing schemes which were run by profit making organisations.
The Genesis approach is practical and farmers would be required to go no further than following current legislation and MAFFs codes of practice, added Mr Cook.
Only one annual inspection of all the farms enterprises would be needed which would be done by an independent verifier including a simple visual appraisal of the unit.
Verifiers would also check declaration forms signed previously by either a vet or BASIS qualified agronomist that vouched for good farm practice in each enterprise type.
Martin Barker, managing director of Genesis, said that all the major retailers had now given their support.
In the longer term, he added, the aim was to establish the schemes mark throughout the food chain and bring it to the attention of consumers.
But a spokesman for the British Retailers Consortium said the scheme had not yet been evaluated.
Tesco, too, has yet to study the details but Chris Ling, who has been involved in establishing the firms producer clubs, welcomed the initiative in principle.
I have not looked at the scheme details yet, but, in principle, any scheme that reduces production costs is welcome, said Mr Ling.
Although MAFFs codes of practice provided a good foundation, he believed the lack of detail in some areas could make objective measurements difficult.
Robert Robertson, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) agriculture committee, was unhappy with the new scheme.
The FSB has already complained to the European Union competition authorities about the existing Assured Combinable Crops Scheme.
Mr Robertson said the new Genesis scheme added further costs to British farmers for no improvement in return.
It is, therefore, anti-competitive, he insisted.
No one from ACCS was available to comment on the Genesis scheme.