Commissioners have announced the next steps with an independent evaluation of the UK’s farm assurance schemes.

The UK Farm Assurance Review, jointly set up by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), along with NFU Cymru, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and NFU Scotland, will focus on “repurposing UK farm assurance for a post-Brexit world”.

Dr David Llewellyn, lead commissioner and former vice-chancellor of Harper Adams University, will work with three independent commissioners. The commissioners are James Withers, past CEO of Scotland Food and Drink; Mark Suthern, the chair of trustees for the Farming Community Network; and a fourth commissioner whose appointment is in progress.

The commissioners have set the project’s areas for investigation, developed an engagement plan and established a timeline to “ensure decisive outcomes for the industry”.

The project will include:

  • An assessment of best practice
  • Consideration of how methods of assurance can provide value to primary producers in a fast-changing environment
  • Consideration of how methods of assurance can provide an evaluation of the relationship between assurance and regulation.

Emphasising a requirement for comprehensiveness and openness, Llewellyn said: “The programme of work, which will cover seven distinct stages, will be aimed at letting anyone, or any organisation, that wants to share their views on this important subject be able to do that, regardless of where they sit in the supply chain.

“The commissioners welcome this engagement. We expect to involve farmers and farmer organisations, policy makers, food processors, retailers and consumer groups, as well as relevant trade associations and representative bodies. The work will go on until the end of the year, and periodic updates on progress will be issued to the farming and food community.

“We will be seeking contributions to the Review, over the next few months, via an online survey, submissions of evidence from representative bodies and, where required, interviews and online focus group discussions. We want to ensure that we understand what works, and what doesn’t work, with assurance systems, so as to recommend ways in which the operating environment for the farming industry can be improved.”