Partnerships pointed out Sainsbury has been quick in responding to the call from Sir Don Curry's food policy commission for more effort to "reconnect" farmers with customers. The company plans to boost its Partnership in Livestock Scheme, visiting beef and lamb producers on more than 100 farms throughout the UK. "We want to do all we can to work more closely with farmers," said trading director Ian Merton. The company is proposing a number of initiatives including regular on-farm consultations, hosting visits by farmers to its stores and suppliers' plants, and later extending the programme to the pig sector. Yet the Sainsbury announcement gently made a point voiced indignantly in private by others in the multiple sector: all the major retailers and their biggest meat suppliers have well established programmes designed to develop close links with livestock farmers. Sainsbury's Partnership scheme is 10 years old, Tesco's producer clubs are equally well known, and, of course, M&S has a long tradition of intimate commercial relationships with agricultural producers. Some critics of the Curry report complain one of their major problems in recent years has been increasing resistance from farmers against their attempts to shorten supply chains. Militant producer groups including the National Beef Association have been hostile to direct deadweight procurement, for instance, in effect trying instead to distance farmers from consumers by favouring auction sales of livestock and lobbying against rationalisation of the slaughtering industry. {{MEAT }}