Levy payers at a grass roots meeting on the future of farm assurances have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a ballot to reform the schemes.
Over 65 farmers packed out the meeting in Old Meldrum, farmers aired their discontent with the current rules set out by QMS, Red Tractor and Scottish Quality Crops.
The meeting did fall short of a call to scrap the standards altogether, and voted in recognition of assurance having a place in modern farming.
Organiser and chair Patrick Sleigh said: “We had a fantastic turn out tonight and I know a good number of people couldn’t attend who wanted to. I have also had more than 80 telephone calls of support since I called the meeting two weeks ago.
"The message is clear, the status quo will not do for farm assurance. The levy bodies have to get the message they are not doing what they were originally set up to do. It has turned into a monster. There is no accountability.”
Executive director of Agrico UK, Archie Gibson, was the main speaker for the rally. He said: “I support Patrick in his conversation on the future of assurance scheme.”
The former chair of Food & Drink Federation Scotland then went on to agree to bring forward a questionnaire to get feedback from farmers on how they want assurance and their levy bodies to proceed.
The meeting heard from farmers who raised concerns about the focus and frequency of assurance inspections. Bill Keir, of Ladymill, Alford, showing dissatisfaction with the direction of assurance, pointing out that his assurance standard documents were 24 pages long in 2011, and 54 pages long this year.
Vice-president of NFUS, Andrew Connon, said: “NFUS is there to get fairness. What we are aware of is replication and duplication which we don’t need. I do believe there is a need for assurance schemes as a way to demonstrate our higher standards of production compared to other countries. We need assurance schemes going forward for our product. We have meetings with QMS this week, and we have meetings with SQC and Red Tractor planned.
"We need to acknowledge frustrations - our industry is under huge siege from every direction.”
Charlie Gray, Greenacres, Portsoy offered a vote of thanks at the end of the night and captured the mood saying: “No one is against assurance we just need some common sense with it.”
On the night there was £152 raised for RSABI.