Decisions made at NSA Management Board meeting

8th August 2019

At the NSA Management Board meeting on Thursday 8th August, two difficult decisions were made.

  • To increase the NSA membership subscription from 1st January 2020.
  • And to apply for planning permission to erect a new NSA building on the Royal Welsh Showground.

Subscriptions

The NSA membership subscription has been £27.50 per year for under 27-year-olds, £55 for individual members and £60 for overseas members since 1st January 2017. At that time it was suggested another increase would be implemented in three years, given that ‘little and often’ is a less painful option for members than a huge hike after many years of no change. NSA membership subscription increases have often occurred at difficult times for the industry – but none have had the potential to cause as much long-term hardship as the ongoing Brexit negotiations. However, Brexit has also created an unprecedented amount of work for NSA; never has there been such a draw on NSA resources or as much need for a strong voice for the sheep sector.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “The amount of time and resources we currently spend on Brexit is phenomenal, and is only set to increase. There are numerous meetings each week in Westminster and the devolved nations. We are being called upon to respond to many Government consultations, often at quite short notice, and produce papers with huge amounts of detail for MPs, civil servants and others. We are also working hard to ensure people within the Treasury, within groups that lobby the Government and within the national and regional press know about sheep farming, the huge role it plays and the unique threat posed to it by Brexit. It is testament to NSA’s profile within Government circles and beyond that we are being invited and encouraged to put the case forward for the sheep sector, and we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal now.

“We all know the cost of everything from train travel to office administration is increasing and NSA has very clear systems in place to regularly review all costs and services to keep them low. The decision to increase the membership subscription was not made lightly but is essential to cover the increasing amount of work we are doing to ensure the sheep industry has a voice at a time when all agricultural sectors, as well as health, education and every other non-agricultural Government department, is arguing its case for the future. NSA works on a not-for-profit basis and, with membership representing the bulk of its annual income, you can be assured every penny of membership fees goes into representing the views and interests of sheep producers throughout the UK.

“We know individual sheep farming businesses are facing uncertainty and difficult times ahead, but we hope you value the work of NSA to limit the potential impact and clearly communicate information to members at every step of the process.”

NSA subscriptions from 1st January 2020 will be £30 for under 27-year-olds, £60 for individual members and £65 for overseas members. In addition, new membership categories will be offered, potentially joint and group subscriptions. Details of these will follow in due course.

NSA Sheep Centre at the Royal Welsh Show

NSA has owned a building on the Royal Welsh Showground for many decades. The current building is now out of lease with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS), and, showing considerable old age and wear, NSA has been encouraged by RWAS to remove the existing shed and build a new one. Clearly the current climate is not one in which a huge investment such as this can be made lightly and the topic has been up for discussion at every NSA Management Board meeting for more than two years.

For anyone who visits the Royal Welsh Show, the NSA building is next to the shearing shed and provides a service for the sheep sector in providing a single roof for breed societies and sheep-related companies and services to come under. There is also a very popular restaurant and bar at the rear, used by trade exhibitors, livestock exhibitors and visitors. Given the ability of NSA to sub-let the building to all these organisations and companies, there is a sound business case for renewing the lease, erecting a new building and continuing to rent it out during the show each year. The building is also an important resource that supports the running of the NSA Wales & Border Ram Sales and other key events on the showground.

Bryan Griffiths, NSA Chairman, says: “When it boils down to it, NSA is faced with only two options. To erect a new building and have what is a money-making enterprise and key presence at one of the most important agricultural events in the annual calendar. Or to carry the cost of removing the building and either pay to have a small trade stand in a less prominent position or not be at the event at all. Yet even in these stark terms, and with the business case showing a return on investment, the NSA Board remains nervous about spending a considerable amount of money at a time of such uncertainty. Therefore, the decision was made on Thursday that the business case stacks up sufficiently to apply for planning permission for a new building and line up a potential contractor – but with the very clear instruction that, should we be hit with a Brexit no-deal scenario later this year, things will be reviewed.

“NSA Board members are just normal sheep farmers who give up their time to run the NSA, and yet they are being faced with a far more difficult investment decision than many people will ever encounter. I don’t think anyone would envy them their job when it comes to the decision around this building and I thank them for their tireless work so far. Often it has felt like we’ve gone round in circles as we’ve pored over figures and business cases and asked ourselves questions again and again, but at least we have got to the stage now where we will initiate work to potentially start building in early 2020, but apply the brakes if we need.”

Any questions about these two decisions should be directed in the first instance to [email protected]k.