FARMERS For Action claims many farmers across the UK are now suggesting that, for them, FQAS and Red Tractor have reached the end of the road.
As a result, FFA has written to the NI Livestock and Meat Commission FQAS division and Red Tractor, London, stating that they are no longer delivering for farmers.
Sean McAuley, FFA, pictured, said both schemes started out to return farmers a bonus and very quickly this turned into a penalty for those not in the schemes or anyone not renewing their membership.
Sean continued: “In short, there is no longer any bonus, there is only increasing expense for family farmers renewing their membership with the latest money earner for the schemes being a requirement, eg, for sprayers to be certified and calibrated annually, and the latest tightening of the net is certification and calibration of fertiliser sowers, which begs the question, what next?
“These schemes are becoming a noose around the neck of family farmers having to pay for an in-creasing number of certificates which has now turned into a whole industry in its own right, with no return at the farmgate, again only penalties, additional expense, hassle and stress diminishing family farmers freedom to farm.”
FFA has made it clear in its letters to LMC and Red Tractor that if the schemes are going to continue in their current line of projection, then they are going to have to find a way to pay farmers for their participation.
It says that any claims that the schemes are voluntary must now be dismissed due to the penalties farmers incur when selling non-Red Tractor or non-FQAS produce.
Currently farm incomes fall far short of the true cost of production plus a margin inflation-linked across virtually all the food produced on farms, therefore, the last thing family farmers need is additional administration, time and effort for a minus return.
Sean concluded with a list of questions farmers are now constantly posing to FFA:
n Why should farmers have to pay to have themselves inspected?
n In the beginning the bonus carrot was dangled and then turned into a stick – is the stick going to continue to grow in length?
n Why did potato growers part with AHDB?
n Is Quality Assurance now becoming a second police force on top of farm support cross compliance?
n If FQAS, Red Tractor and indeed QMS, according to Jim Walker, serve any purpose then why is it so difficult to find any Marks and Spencer’s UK food product displaying such logos?
n Quality Assurance is portrayed as a necessary part of the food chain, however, since the food chain is dysfunctional at returning farmers the true cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce, does this mean FQAS and Red Tractor are taking money from family farmers unnecessarily?
n Has FQAS and Red Tractor reached the end of the road for family farmers – now only content with serving their corporate masters who seem determined to increase unnecessary rules on family farmers for no reward and portray a perception of support when in reality it’s all about keeping farming families turning the hamster wheel?
n In Northern Ireland family farmers are being threatened with FQAS status being removed if their herd retains any animals with BVD – this as a result of a failed eradication scheme across Northern Ireland. Those same
farmers (and FFA) insisted the Northern Ireland BVD eradication scheme was flawed from the outset, therefore how can they be to blame and now set for another huge penalty?
n Farmers complain that FQAS and Red Tractor are becoming in-creasingly involved in animal health issues, something which they have no authority or veterinary qualifications to be involved with, not to mention the confidentiality of farmer information with the Department for Agriculture.Those same farmers are now asking the question – is it time to make clear to FQAS and Red Tractor inspectors that only two people are qualified with the care of their animals and those are themselves and their veterinary surgeon?
n Will the FQAS and Red Tractor assurance schemes next step be even more pressure, having farm support money linked to Quality Assured schemes, as has been proposed in the Republic of Ireland?
n Pig farmers’ plight in recent times is well documented, with those same farmers questioning if FQAS and Red Tractor are so important, why did they not do something to help?
n For the 27 African countries heading towards starvation as a result of the shortage of Ukrainian grain – does anyone think FQAS will matter to them any more than those London shoppers who were finding empty shelves in supermarkets at the beginning of lockdown?
The above questions, Sean claims, are increasingly being asked by family farmers across these islands, now to the point of putting young people off going into farming and other good family farmers considering quitting what they are doing, due to ever increasing pressure of inspections, leaving FFA to ask the question on behalf of the vast majority of family farmers – should FQAS and Red Tract-or deliver financially at the farmgate immediately or leave the industry?
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