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Farm assurance under fire

DESPITE CALLS from the agm floor that farm assurance schemes were a 'hotch-potch' and nothing short of a 'shambles', two former NFUS chiefs jumped to their defence, claiming that they would remain the 'backbone' of Scotland's quality drive.

According to Campbeltown farmer Robert Miller, every farm assurance inspection looked for something different, hence his claim that the schemes were hopelessly muddled.

While former union chief executive James Withers, now head of Scotland Food and Drink, accepted that the schemes could be simplified, he stressed that farmers couldn't rest on their laurels and believe that, just because they had farm assurance, they were immune to future food scares.

Mr Withers urged farmers to take farm assurance to the next level to ensure they were not caught in the headlights of some future problems on food quality. With particular reference to the horse meat scandal, Mr Withers said he was not surprised about the revelations that were coming out, blaming a combination of downward price pressure and a lengthy supply chain.

Farmers were frustrated that the horsemeat scandal had dragged down the overall reputation of red meat in the eyes of the consuming public, but Mr Withers insisted that they should view it as a huge opportunity to promote their own produce and its excellent traceability.

Former union president, and now QMS chairman, Jim McLaren was equally adamant in his defence of assurance, suggesting that some schemes were not robust enough and saying that, if anything, more use should be made of them, not less.

Responding to another proposal from the floor that it was an "absolute disgrace" promotional cash had not been used to urgently proclaim Scottish farming's innocence in the horse meat scandal, Mr McLaren sounded a note of caution: "It is difficult to control media output when stories are leaking out at such speed. I would hesitate at shouting from the rooftops until we see where we are with this."

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