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The NFU has commissioned an independent review of farm assurance schemes – including the Red Tractor – and whether they offer value for money.... Red Tractor scheme faces ‘value for money’ probe

The NFU has commissioned an independent review of farm assurance schemes – including the Red Tractor – and whether they offer value for money.

It follows accusations that the union waved through a “greener farm commitment” by the Red Tractor scheme which will see farmers asked to prove their environmental credentials. The union denies the claim.

Growers and livestock producers have accused the Red Tractor of “mission creep” – arguing that the move threatens to pile costs on farmers while benefiting Britain’s supermarket chains and retail giants.

Reviews

Following a heated meeting between NFU Council and the union’s officeholders last month, two reviews will now scrutinise how farm assurance schemes operate in England and Wales, and whether they provide value for producers.

The reviews will be asked to report by the end of January. The first will examine the governance of the Red Tractor, which many farmers say has overstepped the mark by demanding more from producers. The second will look more broadly at farm assurance.

Terms of reference for the Red Tractor governance review include examining the scheme’s decision-making procedures and transparency, including who is consulted when  scheme standards are developed.

Effectiveness

It will look at how Red Tractor engages with farmers, examine the effectiveness of these processes and identify obstacles which need addressing.

The second review – called Revolutionising Farm to Fork Assurance – will deal with wider and deeper issues around assurance. It will examine whether producers get fair value from assurance – and look at the relevance of assurance to different sectors.

In an acknowledgement of the effort many producers go to when meeting assurance standards, this second review will also consider whether the “one size fits all” model is fair and correct. It will also examine the impact on farmers’ mental health.

Assurance

NFU president Minette Batters said: “I’m very happy indeed that, after what’s been a difficult few days for all of us, the review into Red Tractor governance can now begin and we can start to build this second, far bigger, review into assurance as a whole.

“It’s time for that to happen, so we can look at what works and what doesn’t, and to make sure assurance is fit for purpose in the years ahead.

“It’s critical that this involves a wide consultation with NFU members through their boards, both regional and sector, and also that it is a collaborative review, undertaken across all the farming organisations.”