Assured Food Standards must demonstrate to UK farmers how the upgraded “Red Tractor Farm Assurance Scheme”, which is to be implemented in April, will help them develop their businesses.
Otherwise, warns the National Beef Association, it could face a backlash because pre-launch trials suggest that the farm inspection could, on average, take around 60 minutes longer – and SAI Global/FABBL will be under pressure to bump up its fees.
“Farm inspections could take longer because more detail will have to be found by each farmer. Certificates, like those approving chemical use, will have to be produced and even on a farm with a well organised records system, the inspector will expect to be on-farm for an additional half hour,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.
“Feedback from our members indicates that many of them already think farm assurance has become too complicated, and they want to know exactly how they will be rewarded for the additional effort of keeping their businesses up to standard and meeting tougher inspection demands.”
In the past AFS has said that an assured farm finds it easier to meet cross compliance targets and is less likely to suffer SFP penalties for annoying minor failures.
“But the message on the ground is that running an assured farm offers no advantage, or disadvantage when cross-compliance is being checked out because there is no cross-referencing between the two, or any connection between their respective demands,” said Ms Haywood.
“However farmers are questioning the justification for raising Red Tractor standards. They say the scheme is sufficiently solid already and are aware that consumer respect for it is rising steadily.”
“This being the case they are asking why qualification is being made more complicated and exactly which section of the industry is driving this when consumers have already said they are increasingly happy.”
“The bottom line is that farmers who are already assured do not want to see a lift in cost, or more demands on their time, unless the new standards really are of direct benefit to their businesses. AFS is going to have to demonstrate that that the benefits of the new scheme standards will have a visible impact on the farm’s bottom line,” Ms Haywood added.
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