New structure for sheep industry

A new structure to represent the sheep industry from lowland to the hill regions will be implemented from the new year.

The 18-month long process, which has been led by East Anglian pedigree breeder Jonathan Barber, has successfully developed a streamlined body to represent the entire industry.

And at the end of next week, Mr Barber, of Crogham Farm, Wymondham, will formally retire as one of two trustees of the National Sheep Association (NSA), which also enjoys charitable status.

In its place, there will be a new body – the NSA’s board of management, which has 14 trustees and directors selected from all regions.

Mr Barber, former chairman of the association and who served two complete terms, will stand aside. “I think it is important that when there’s a new structure set up, it is time to stand back and let others get on with it,” he said.

As a founder of the British Charollais Sheep Society, Mr Barber has been involved at a representative level of the NSA for 30 years, including successive terms as vice-chairman, chairman-elect and then chairman and also as a special executive board member for 20 years. He will continue to assist the NSA’s executive and has been just been invited by Defra to join a high-level working group advising on animal health issues. There were two key reasons for moving to a new framework. “We had a council of management of more than 150, which was the governing body. It wasn’t really the most responsive structure for decision making – especially when decisions had to be made speedily. I think we all recognised that it wasn’t really workable and it was fine when everything was going right.”

Secondly, the evolution of the devolved administrations requires the regions’ producers to be more closely aligned with their decision-making processes.

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“The NSA’s role has been to look after England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but trying to work out a common position had become increasingly difficult.

“We now have an English structure, which we didn’t have before. We’ve always had a group for Scotland, Wales and North Ireland. They can discuss their own policy and then come together under this new UK board. We can then speak with a single voice to government and also Europe,” he added. There were some other legal aspects, which also had to be taken into consideration, including different charity law in Scotland.

The new management will oversee the strategic direction and will include representatives from all nine NSA regions. As part of the process, a new English committee has just met for the first time, chaired by Mike Credland, of Gloucestershire. It will work with colleagues in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Phil Stocker, chief executive, said: “It is a testament to NSA’s all-encompassing approach, that a group representing commercial producers and finishers, pedigree producers, auctioneers, processors and advisors, all with a variety of diverse and specialist interests, can come together all with the single purpose of striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for sheep producers.”

The regions include England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with representatives from the north, central, Marches, eastern, south-east, south-west plus two members from Scotland, one from Northern Ireland and three from Wales.

Mr Barber said that one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry was understanding the wide variations in costs. “We don’t understand why some people are making a loss of �50 ewe. We’ve still got too many people losing too much money,” he added.