Government says assurance schemes will not become mandatory for growers

The Government does not intend to make farm assurance a mandatory requirement for public sector contracts, agriculture and food minister Jim Paice has said.

Paice made the statement in a letter of reply to the British Independent Fruit Growers Association (BIFGA). It wrote to him earlier this summer amid concerns reported in the Daily Telegraph that the coalition was considering making membership of the Red Tractor scheme a condition of supply for Government procurement.

BIFGA's letter was written as part of its campaign to "roll back" assurance schemes, which it said place unnecessary administrative and financial burdens on growers.

Paice said: "It is not our intention to make membership of a farm assurance scheme a prerequisite for access to public sector contracts - indeed, this would be contrary to procurement legislation.

"We are, however, keen to ensure that central Government does buy food that meets British production standards where this does not increase overall costs. Farm assurance is just one of many ways that producers have of showing that these standards are being met."

He defended assurance schemes saying they "have the potential to help raise production standards; improve the observance of regulatory requirements and codes of practice; improve traceability; and increase consumer confidence in the safety of food".

AUDIT PACK

The NFU has launched a free pack to simplify the audit for the Assured Produce Scheme, which enables growers to use the Red Tractor logo on their produce.

The packs provide NFU members with a series of templates, policies and supporting documents to save time and money while completing the process.

Walter Simon, who grows 50ha of potatoes in Pembrokeshire, said: "The NFU audit pack will be a fantastic resource for my business because it will allow me to update many of my policies and statements easily and tailor them to my specific needs. Previously I have had to start with a blank piece of paper and look for inspiration and ideas as to what I need to include."

As well as a physical copy of the audit pack, all of the documents will be available online and they can be completed electronically.

The NFU estimated that the cost of employing a consultant to carry out equivalent work would be in excess of £400, but this service is free to NFU farmer and grower members.

To order an NFU audit pack or to gain online access to the documents, call NFU CallFirst on 0870 8458458. Packs should arrive within 10 days of ordering.


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