The RPA launched a review of the EU's Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme earlier this month, casting doubt over whether a number of businesses will continue to be classed as 'producer organisations'. Some companies have already had their status suspended, making them ineligible to receive funds although they can submit additional evidence in an attempt to change the RPA's mind.
A number of suspended POs are now in discussions, with a view to launching joint legal action should the RPA refuse to recognise them even after further evidence has been given consideration.
One group of POs which includes Northern Mushrooms, as well as four other producer organisations has already retained solicitors Taylor Vinters to advise them on their position.
"Provision is being made to take the case to the highest court if necessary, if PO representations to the RPA prove fruitless," said Northern director John Smith.
The NFU said it was currently exploring the legal options available to its PO members, but added that it was aware that a number were already taking advice. "We are looking at the common issues that the RPA had identified with those POs that have failed the review so we can offer guidance," said Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, chief horticulture and potatoes adviser.
Richard Hirst, chairman of G's Growers, a PO whose status has been suspended, said the priority at the moment was to negotiate with the RPA and provide it with everything it needed in order to recognise POs. "If we fail in our persuasion of the RPA, then we'll look at legal action," he said.
As The Grocer reported last week ('Producers fear for future in wake of RPA's review', 13 August, p33), a number of POs that have been temporarily de-recognised following the RPA's review face closure.