Genesis Quality Assurance (GQA), which is part of the Leavesley Group, offers assurance in the arable, beef and lamb, dairy and pig sectors and currently serves 70% of assured UK pigs. The company is also now expanding into the overseas market.
Its success, said Johnson, is based on its modular system, which reduces paperwork and inspections on farms with more than one enterprise. She works closely with Assured Food Standards to ensure equivalence with the Red Tractor schemes.
She said it is clear that the over-riding role of farm assurance is to serve its farmer customers: "If a farmer can use assurance to demonstrate he meets the requirements of, for instance, cross-compliance, then that is going to be helpful to him. But we have to be clear that we are not going to cross the divide from voluntary to regulatory."
She believes the majority of farmers would rather have one inspection from one person they know, than multi-inspections by people they do not know and are not sure of.
But expanding the role of assurance to include audits for new regulatory requirements does not have to make the assurance schemes more complicated and more bureaucratic, she added: "I see no point in setting standards for the sake of setting standards. In fact, I think that as we go forward it should be possible to reduce the number of standards."
If the way ahead for assurance is to reduce the bureaucratic burden on farmers by auditing for regulatory compliance, the way to do it is not to add new standards but to add voluntary opt-in risk-assessment modules, she said.