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Beef body merger – its official!

BEEF FARMERS throughout Scotland are set to gain from strengthened representation on the political stage, following the news that agreement has been reached on the long-awaited merger between the Scottish Beef Cattle Association and the National Beef Association in Scotland.

The merger will take immediate effect following this week's progressive UK NBA board meeting in Hexham, which was attended by Scottish mediator John Ross, and SBCA chairman Scott Henderson.

The Scottish Beef Association was given the green light by the new NBA Board, who carefully considered the merger which has been slowly, and often painfully, built under the chairmanship of Mr Ross through 2012.

The SBCA board had already approved the proposed route to merger at their November meeting, but December 4 saw final agreement reached on the central principles and the signing of a draft Heads of Terms between respective chairmen Scott Henderson and Hamish McBean, which will now allow a single representative body for beef farmers.

The NBA board said that it was building its new national framework through "a firm understanding that a bottom-up and country-based structure holds the key to optimal delivery for the industry". They believe this is the right development for Scottish beef farmers and members – who will retain the benefits of NBA – and the right thing for the Association nationally.

The SBCA Board has been equally forward-looking and for almost 12 months have worked towards this 'treaty' which will ultimately see their own demise and rechanneling of resources and expertise into the phoenix-like SBA.

The SBA Steering Group will now remain under the chairmanship of Mr Ross, with the continued help of Ali McKnight to facilitate the process of a speedy move towards an inaugural member's meeting in early January to vote in a board.

Announcing this accord, a joint statement said that the SBA will have "an assured and interwoven alliance with NBA on UK matters, while operating independently in Scotland determining its own policy and finances". The newly appointed NBA national director, Chris Mallon, will also be available to assist the SBA Board.

"At last both bodies can face the future with optimism as one and continue the valued work achieved through their Cross Industry Beef Working Group which has recently made significant steps in lobbying Scottish Government to protect beef farming under a new CAP," read the statement.

That group, set up between Jim Stewart, Scott Henderson and Ian Anderson of SAMW, has brought the supply chain together to focus on policy and pioneered the concept of modeling the single farm payment against land capability through The Macaulay classification.

Last week it met with Scottish Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to stress the needs of Scottish beef production and resulted in letters to both Scottish and UK Ministers.

Commenting on the merger outcome, Mr Ross said "I am very pleased that finally the persistence and commitment shown by the steering group has achieved this satisfactory result and I thank them for their efforts."

Mr McBean remarked: "Definite progress has been made and there now should be nothing standing in the way for this to work for everyone. We will put forward the best of NBA into SBA to deliver for Scottish farmers."

Mr Henderson commented: "I am elated we now have a single strong voice for beef producers in Scotland which will put the industry first. The SBA will deal with the issues that affect beef production and beef producers and will continue the valuable lobbying that has been recently carried out by both parties.

"This process has taken far too long and allowed too much speculation by some in the farming press and beyond, but finally we have got there," he added.

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