Red Tractor publishes open letter regarding GFC criticism

Red Tractor publishes open letter regarding GFC criticism

The chair of Red Tractor, Christine Tacon, has written an open letter to its members in response to feedback from industry regarding the Greener Farms Commitment (GFC).

Christine Tacon, Red Tractor chair.

Red Tractor announced at the start of October that the GFC would be made available from 1st April 2024.

In the open letter, which was posted on the Red Tractor website and shared via social media, Tacon said: “Last week saw our Technical Advisory Committees discuss the GFC across every sector as part of that work. The process is already giving us a huge amount of valuable feedback. Strong views are being shared on the approach and those conversations continue.

“To call out three examples: Whilst the GFC aligns with the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) in England wherever possible, we need to do more work to ensure this happens as the devolved schemes are developed. We are also focused on important questions about how to incorporate indoor farming operations, and short term rented land.”

The GFC previously received support from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and multiple UK supermarkets, but faced criticism from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). Responding to the initial announcement, NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “As it stands, there has been no clear vision delivered as to how this is going to add any value to farm gate and yet it will help retailers deliver more of their ESG requirements, which ultimately brings value.”

He went on to say that although the GFC had the potential to provide a solution “…the additional cost cannot be shouldered by our [NFU] farmer members and the supply chain will have to pay a premium for the associated increase in costs.”

Tacon said in the letter: “We will continue to listen carefully to farmers’ feedback and work hard to better understand their point of view. We need to explore every option for achieving as much flexibility as possible for farmers, without diluting the common industry approach. The last several weeks have clearly given us a great deal to consider. The new Development Advisory Panel (DAP), which is being created at the moment, will have a vital role to take full account of the first-hand experience of farmers and we will look for other ways too.

“We will continue to answer questions as quickly and openly as we can. For example, quite rightly farmers are concerned about protecting their data. Red Tractor has a clear policy on data sharing – the farmer controls their own data and, as with current systems, nothing is shared without the farmers express permission, which they can withdraw at any time.”

GFC funding

Tacon concluded: “I am also aware that much of the concern is about how farmers are recompensed for the overall cost of participating in the GFC. Clearly this is a fundamental question. Will it be paid for by the market, by Government incentives or a mix of both?

“We expect the GFC to align directly with Government schemes to enable that funding, wherever possible. Red Tractor has also done cost benefit analyses to understand in detail what costs need to be considered. Ultimately though, the final price paid by the market has to be the result of a commercial negotiation between farmers or growers and their customers.

“The GFC is very different from Red Tractor’s core standards – it’s a commitment, a journey for farmers to become more environmentally focused. It is not pass or fail standards. Farmers upload their plans and actions, as opposed to being physically audited, and the GFC will recognise other programmes and national schemes to prevent duplication. We clearly need to do a better job of explaining what’s intended and how this is different. We will work hard to achieve this.”

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