Farmers can save time and money when considering new contracts by signing up to a new service for NFU members.
The Contract Checking Service has been developed following an increase in contract dispute cases referred to the NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme (LAS) and enquiries from members asking for NFU guidance before signing contracts.
Ninety-one cases were referred to the LAS in the 2014/2015 year, rising to 100 cases for 2015/2016. If this trend continues, 100+ more cases will have been opened this year and even more cases in subsequent years.
NFU legal board chairman Trevor Foss said: “Contract disputes are an increasing concern for our members. The total cost of contract disputes for NFU members in 2015/2016 ran to an eye-watering £698,247, with the NFU Legal Assistance Scheme (LAS) contributing around £450,000 to help its subscribers with these costs.
“Ironically, many of these disputes could have been easily avoided or the costs significantly reduced by seeking professional guidance and support at the outset before signing on the dotted line.
“This is why the NFU, in conjunction with its Legal Panel Firms, is today launching the Contract Checking Service to help our often busy members by adding a fresh pair of professional eyes to make sure all is present and correct.
“As an added bonus, the NFU through its LAS is offering the first 50 LAS subscribers who take up the service a one-off £100 toward the costs incurred.”
The service is organised into three tiers:
• A free initial discussion with the NFU’s CallFirst Specialist Advisers’ team, available to all NFU farmer and grower members
• An initial report produced by an NFU legal panel solicitor considering members’ requirements, reviewing the contract and explaining what it means
• A more detailed review with advice on how to renegotiate the contract terms.
Those who use the service will receive advice about contracts such as sale of goods or services, grazing licences and tenancy agreements. The service does not cover more technical arrangements, such as foreign distribution agreements or the sale of large estates.