Christine Tacon

Tacon said juggling both roles could exacerbate a lack of trust in Red Tractor following controversy over its Greener Farms Commitment scheme

Red Tractor chair Christine Tacon is to step down from her role at the farm assurance scheme following her election last weekend to the Co-op board.

Former Groceries Code Adjudicator Tacon was appointed to the Red Tractor board in December 2020.

Her tenure in recent months has been dominated by the controversy around Red Tractor’s abandoned plans for its Greener Farms Commitment module – which ultimately led to a review into the governance of the scheme by the NFU and a second, ongoing review into the wider farm accreditation framework in the UK.

Tacon – who headed up the Co-op’s farming operations from 2000 to 2012 – described her appointment to the retailer’s board, following last weekend’s AGM, as “very significant for me”.

But it had also created a “dilemma” due to her role with Red Tractor.

“Fulfilling these two roles in parallel, each of which requires 30-40 days per year, would ordinarily raise no concerns – indeed, Red Tractor chairs almost always hold other positions in the food industry simultaneously,” she said.

“However, I am acutely aware of those with reservations about supermarket power in general, and a lack of trust in Red Tractor from some quarters that needs to be repaired,” she added.

“Aware of these concerns, I raised my possible appointment proactively with Red Tractor’s ownership body and we mutually agreed it would be better for me to step down from Red Tractor if I got the Co-op role.”

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Tacon stressed “this is not a move I welcome in any way”. She added she would have “far preferred to carry on supporting Red Tractor at such a critical point”.

She was also “confident I could have executed both roles without compromising either organisation”, she added.

“However, I do not want to risk giving oxygen to those intent on criticising Red Tractor or for this to be the cause of any negative publicity.”

Tacon has offered to stay on at the Red Tractor ownership body’s discretion until a new or interim chair is appointed.

This is an important time for Red Tractor as it works to improve transparency and audit efficiency, and better demonstrate value,” she added. “I would also like to thank the excellent team at Red Tractor for their hard work and dedication. Expect an update from the ownership body in due course.”

Despite the “bumps in the road” faced by the scheme in recent months – which led Tacon to apologise for the handling of the GFC’s rollout when it was officially axed in March – she insisted Red Tractor was “a unique and valuable asset to us all, from farm to fork”.

“There are issues that need addressing, and believe me, this is happening. But it is incumbent on us all to see the enormous opportunities and value presented by Red Tractor and work together to ensure it is there for us all, for the future.”