Jim Moseley

Source: Red Tractor

Moseley has faced calls to resign from his position after the ill-fated announcement of a new, retailer-backed environmentally-focused Red Tractor module in October

Red Tractor CEO Jim Moseley has hit back at criticism of the assurance scheme and his leadership, stressing it is “not here” to simply “deliver for farmers”.

Moseley has faced calls to resign from his position after the ill-fated announcement of a new, retailer-backed, environmentally-focused Red Tractor module in October, which provoked fury from within the farming sector due to what many described as a lack of consultation.

The voluntary Greener Farms Commitment (GFC) module promised to “meet the needs of the market with a single consistent industry approach” to sustainability accreditation. It was supported by the likes of the BRC, Tesco, Sainsbury’s Morrisons and M&S Food. 

But in the face of fierce farmer criticism, its rollout was paused at the end of October, ahead of an NFU review of the governance of Red Tractor, which will followed by a wider probe, conducted by AHDB and the NFU into the UK’s farm assurance structure.

As the NFU prepares to publish the full findings into the first, Red Tractor-specific review later this month, Moseley has defended the record of the scheme, and insisted it is still fit for purpose, despite growing concerns over ever-increasing audit burdens on food producers.

“You’ll see a lot of commentary about how Red Tractor needs to get back to its origins and start delivering for farmers,” he told The Grocer. “But its origin was never about delivering for farmers,” he argued, pointing to its development in the wake of a series of food scandals more than two decades ago.

“It was established to restore consumer confidence in British food. That was our purpose then and it continues to be. And one could argue that if you look at our purpose, we have absolutely delivered on it – consumers trust UK food more than any other any other food from any other market.”

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The creation of the GFC had been specifically designed to meet a need to reduce the audit burden for farmers – something Red Tractor had been working on in a variety of different food categories, Moseley said.

“And the benefit to the farmer through Red Tractor is they get the maximum market access for the minimum audit,” he added.

Had Red Tractor not have devised the GFC, another body would have done so at the behest of the major multiples, he pointed out, citing how its failure to address calls for greater certification in horticulture led the rival Leaf marque to create something instead. 

“We also have to remember the consumer. There is greater awareness and trust in Red Tractor than any other mark. So, I think, even though it might sound like world domination, it delivers a cost-effective, simple solution for the industry that is valued by the consumer,” he said.

“My hope and indeed my expectation is that in three or four-years’ time, a farm audit will be very different from the farm audit that we do today and it will be far less burdensome on the farmer.”