Red Tractor halts new standards pending NFU governance review

Posted: 1 November 2023 | | No comments yet

In response to apprehensions among farmers, the UK’s Red Tractor food assurance scheme has delayed the introduction of new standards and modules until the conclusion of the NFU’s governance review.

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Red Tractor, a prominent assurance scheme in the UK’s food industry, has put its plans for new standards and additional modules on hold pending the completion of an independent review by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

Though Red Tractor’s Agricultural and Food Standards (AFS) board has expressed its full support for the NFU’s announced reviews, it has shared that it welcomes a “separate, wider look at food chain assurance and its role within the supply chain”. In particular, Red Tractor is seeking to ensure that assurance is fit for purpose in the years ahead.

The decision comes after discussions within the industry and acknowledges the importance of addressing concerns raised by farmers across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Christine Tacon, Chair of Red Tractor, emphasised the significance of listening to farmers’ concerns and addressing the broader issues within the agricultural sector and explained that the UK agriculture sector has experienced a challenging period.

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“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,” said Tacon.

“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.

“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,” continued Tacon.

Tacon reinforced that the views of Red Tractor’s members are “very important” and apologies for being “slow to understand them fully”. However, Tacon noted that discussion that has been provoked is “essential and offers a great opportunity for the farming sectors and supply chains to work together”. 

Going forward, Tacon revealed that Red Tractor expects these conversations to continue with its 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. 

 “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,” concluded Tacon.

New Food has approached NFU for a comment.