Source: Red Tractor 

The review also revealed ’questions of trust and communication’ which needed to be addressed by the farm assurance scheme

Early findings from the NFU’s review of Red Tractor indicate its processes and documentation are “relatively sound”, according to management consultancy Campbell Tickell.

However, there are “questions of trust, communication and understanding of how each part of the Red Tractor structure is intended to function, all of which require urgent attention”, revealed the business, which is undertaking the independent governance review into the assurance scheme.

The review – launched in the wake of Red Tractor’s controversial announcement of a new, retailer-backed environmental module in October – is due to be completed and presented to the NFU Council next month. Red Tractor subsequently paused the rollout of the module following a fierce backlash from farmers due to a lack of consultation.

The update comes as the NFU and AHDB this week announced more detail around a second review into the UK’s wider farm assurance framework. The review will commence once the Red Tractor probe is complete.

The pair said the review would look at how farm assurance can deliver value back to scheme members and how standards are developed to meet the evolving needs of members.

Engagement with technology and how schemes fit in with regulation and government schemes will also come under the microscope.

“Both the NFU and AHDB agree that, as it is almost 25 years since the creation of Red Tractor, there is a need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about all farm assurance schemes to ensure the needs of farmers are met,” the two organisations said in a statement. 

The next steps include appointing an independent commission to oversee the review “and ensure full transparency and the opportunity for farmers and industry to have their say”, they added. Further details will be announced in due course.  

“It’s time for change,” said NFU president Minette Batters. “Farmers and growers don’t feel that many schemes currently work for them.”

She added: “Food safety, branding, provenance, differing sector needs and sustainability are just some areas that farm assurance is trying to address. It is right to ask how these areas can be delivered without giving away value from the farm gate.”