The Hexham-based National Beef Association (NBA) has welcomed the decision of the Red Tractor Association (RTA) to send representatives to a special meeting organised to discuss proposed changes to the industry assurance scheme.
The NBA has joined forces with the National Sheep Association (NSA) and the National Union of Farmers (NFU) to support the meeting for beef and sheep farmers, due to take place on Thursday in Devon.
The RTA’s Beef and Lamb Chairman John Thorley will be joined by its Technical Advisory Committee chairman Andrew Blenkiron and Sector Manager Philippa Wiltshire to answer farmers’ questions.
Further meetings to discuss the proposed changes are also scheduled to take place at Skipton Livestock Market on February 3, and Warwicks Complex, Stoneleigh Park, on February 12.
The events come after concerns were raised about Red Tractor’s plans to introduce a number of changes to the scheme, especially the proposal to extend the current 90 days that cattle must be on a farm to the full lifetime of the animal.
NBA chief executive Chris Mallon said: “We welcome the opportunity this Red Tractor meeting offers and we hope it goes someway to address farmers’ concerns about the planned new regulations.
“This is an important meeting for the future of the beef industry and I would like to encourage as many of our members as possible to attend.
“Our members are worried about what the proposals will mean for their businesses and for the wider beef sector.
“As their voice, the NBA is delighted that RTA representatives are coming to meet our members and explain why they want to revise their standards. I am also looking forward to hearing further details about the plans and the RTA’s response to feedback from those who will be most affected by them.”
The NBA is recognised as the beef cattle industry’s consultative body, and aims to support members in the sector.
At the heart of its work is a drive to create a viable and profitable beef industry for the future.
However, the organisation says it is concerned about how some of changes proposed by the RTA will affect both members and consumers.
Under the new proposals, those rearing cattle will have to become farm assured and finishers will no longer be able to buy young stock from farms that are not.
It is feared this could result in more farmers, especially smaller producers, leaving the industry, resulting in a further reduction in the size of the national herd.
NBA members have also expressed worries about the £150 annual fee required for farm assured status and the additional paperwork, regulations and inspections this will involve.
David Thomlinson, chairman of the NBA, said: “Our members tell us they are happy with the current 90-day on-farm requirement, which provides adequate assurance for consumers about the traceability of the meat they are buying.
“However, we are pleased Red Tractor is attending this open meeting to address these issues, and we are confident they will receive invaluable feedback from the people on the ground that they can take away with them and use when reviewing their proposals.
“We do not need full farm assurance, and this is not something supermarkets or shoppers are asking for. British beef is already renowned throughout the world for its quality and traceability. The NBA believes that changes should only be introduced if they are beneficial to both consumers and the industry.”
Nonetheless, the organisation says it is looking at the issue with an open mind.
The forthcoming meeting represents the first time that Red Tractor has consulted members about changes to the assurance scheme, which is reviewed and updated every three years.
The event will begin at 6pm at the Padbrook Park Hotel, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 1RU, and is open to all.