Red Tractor puts new standards on hold until NFU completes its review
UK farm assurance programme Red Tractor’s main board has confirmed its complete support for both reviews announced by the NFU on 23rd October 2023. The organisation has said it will cooperate fully to ensure openness and pace.
Red Tractor will not progress with the implementation of any new standards or additional modules until the first NFU independent review, focusing on Red Tractor governance, is completed.
It has said that a separate, wider look at food chain assurance and its role within the supply chain is also welcome. Red Tractor said it wants to “make sure assurance is fit for purpose in the years ahead”.
Christine Tacon, chair of Red Tractor, said: “As the team have been working with our Technical Advisory Committees and Sector Boards on the detail of the Greener Farms Commitment (GFC), the strength of feeling from farmers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has become clear to everyone.
“It has been a difficult period across UK agriculture, which has brought forward frustration from farmers that runs deeper than just our proposals for an environment module. We recognise that and have decided that the NFU’s independent review of Red Tractor governance must come first.”
Tacon said: “There will be no decisions on the implementation or timing of the GFC or on other changes to existing Red Tractor Standards until that NFU review is complete. Any continuation of work on an environment module would need to include more detailed dialogue with farmers and supply chains and consider relevant Government policy on agriculture for all UK nations.
“The views of our members are very important, and we are sorry that we have been slow to understand them fully. The discussion that has been provoked is essential and offers a great opportunity for the farming sectors and supply chains to work together.
“So, we expect these conversations to continue with our Technical Advisory Committees, Sector Boards, the new Development Advisory Panel and more widely. It is vital to talk more about the benefits of farm assurance overall, and the challenge of how to demonstrate progress on environmentally focused farming in each sector, for example.”
Tacon concluded: “We hope this approach will help the NFU to achieve its goal of completing the first review by the end of January 2024. In the meantime, we will continue to work to the Standards already in place and support consumer trust in the Red Tractor logo.”
NSA responds to “U-turn”
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: ” It is a positive step for Red Tractor to accept that all further developments must be put on hold until the independent review is completed. Questions still remain whether Red Tractor appreciates its approach is contributing to hostility and falling membership across livestock sectors.
“NSA has been consistent in the view that Red Tractor needs to change if we want sheep farmers to join from choice rather than be forced in order to access one particular supply chain.
“Little consideration has been given to the fact the sheep sector is different to most others – it’s reliance on supermarkets is less with many thousands of small operators who don’t have the same resources and infrastructure as the more industrial sectors.
“Assurance requirements have to be proportionate and the past move to ‘harmonise’ standards has simply alienated much of the sheep sector.”
NSA vice president and Red Tractor sector council member, Bryan Griffiths, added: “It is important to recognise the wave of anger that has swept through the industry is neither anti assurance or anti environmental actions, it is a reaction to the way Red Tractor has disconnected and distanced itself from primary producers, appearing to favour the retail end of the supply chain.
“Hopefully this debacle will lead to the creation of an assurance scheme that commands a sense of ownership with standards and requirements that benefit all, built through a process of true co-design.”