UK farm assurance body – Red Tractor – says it is fully engaged with the Scots farming sector despite having no Scottish representation on its main board.
Investigation by the Press and Journal reveals no specific Scottish farming representatives sit on the body’s main board of directors, although it is understood to have some places on the six sub-sector boards – fresh produce, dairy, combinable crops, pigs, beef and lamb, and poultry.
Red Tractor failed to provide details of the representatives on each of the boards, saying it did not have this information to hand.
However, chief executive David Clarke said Scottish farmers were not being negatively discriminated against by not having representation on the board.
“We make sure we have a spread according to the different commodities we work with and along the length of the supply chain from farmers through to retailers and a spread of independent directors with expertise,” he told the P&J.
He said adding extra representatives based on geography would make the board too big.
“If you don’t have people on the board that isn’t the end of the world. Whatever we allocate to do, we consult on,” he said.
Scottish combinable crops, pigs, beef and lamb producers have their farm assurance covered by Quality Meat Scotland and Scottish Quality Crops.
However, farm assurance for many fresh produce, dairy and poultry producers falls under the remit of Red Tractor.
A lack of representation on the dairy board raised concern for Scottish dairy farmers last year when changes to assurance requirements were proposed.
At the time NFU Scotland called for a seat on the main board, which was refused with a seat on the technical working group offered up instead.
Its milk policy manager, George Jamieson, said: “Last year saw consideration given to extra assurance requirements for dairy farmers, without due consultation at an early stage in Scotland. The consternation that caused would have been avoided if Scotland had been involved in the main board. Subsequent input from Scottish dairy farmers successfully clarified and amended the proposals, showing the value that could be had by having us round the table.
“We will continue to argue our case for a place on the board, while contributing to the very important work of the technical group.”
Quality Meat Scotland said having representation on the main Red Tractor board was not a concern as the sectors it covers – beef, lamb and pigs – are covered under six separate quality assurance schemes from farm to primary processor.
A spokesman said: “Our priority is the assurance schemes which guarantee the quality and provenance of the Scottish industry’s brands – Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork – as well as working closely with key organisations which support us with these schemes, such as the Scottish SPCA.
“The corporate governance arrangements of organisations such as Red Tractor are a matter for these organisations and do not involve QMS.”