The National Sheep Association (NSA) has welcomed the news of new Red Tractor modules being put on hold until an independent review of governance has been completed.
The NSA had called for a full review of Red Tractor after the news of its intention to launch its Greener Farms’ Commitment (GFC).
Two reviews will be conducted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) after its council questioned whether Red Tractor provides value for producers at a meeting last week.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “It is a positive step for Red Tractor to accept that all further developments must be put on hold until the independent review is completed.
“Questions still remain whether Red Tractor appreciates its approach is contributing to hostility and falling membership across livestock sectors.”
Stocker said the NSA has been consistent in the view that Red Tractor needs to change if sheep farmers are to join from choice rather than be “forced in order to access one particular supply chain”.
“Little consideration has been given to the fact the sheep sector is different to most others – it’s reliance on supermarkets is less with many thousands of small operators who don’t have the same resources and infrastructure as the more industrial sectors.
“Assurance requirements have to be proportionate and the past move to ‘harmonise’ standards has simply alienated much of the sheep sector.”
‘Disconnected from primary producers’
NSA vice president and Red Tractor sector council member, Bryan Griffiths, said the reaction to Red Tractor’s GFC was not due to an anti-environmental attitude amongst farmers.
“It is important to recognise the wave of anger that has swept through the industry is neither anti assurance or anti environmental actions, it is a reaction to the way Red Tractor has disconnected and distanced itself from primary producers, appearing to favour the retail end of the supply chain,” he said.
“Hopefully this debacle will lead to the creation of an assurance scheme that commands a sense of ownership with standards and requirements that benefit all, built through a process of true co-design.”
Work to get both reviews underway has already begun, the NFU said, the first of which will focus on Red Tractor governance, followed by a review of farm assurance more widely.
The NFU council agreed that the ambition should be for work to be completed in time for its next meeting in January 2024.
Welcoming the two independent reviews by the NFU, Red Tractor said it wants to make sure assurance is “fit for purpose” in the years ahead.
While working on the detail of the GFC, the strength of feeling from farmers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has become “clear”, the NFU said.