Red Tractor is urging farmers to engage in a consultation on how its farm standards should evolve.
A consultation has opened with proposals put forward on how the standards should look across the scheme’s six sectors: beef and lamb, poultry, pigs, dairy, fresh produce and combinable crops and sugar beet.
The farm assurance body is seeking input from across the industry before finalising its proposition of what the schemes standards will be from November 2021. The consultation and review closes on 5 March.
The proposals have been developed over 12 months, and according to Red Tractor, at every step of the process representatives from across the food chain – farming organisations, farmers, vets, processors and retailers – have been fully involved in drawing up the amendments.
Together they have studied consumer trends, reviewed the latest science and evidence, as well as benchmarked the scheme against competitors and industry best practice. The three-stage process of committee, consultation and consensus, adheres to gold standard recommendations of the British Standards Institute, it added.
For fresh produce, the proposals include:
Members will see a new framework to the standards. There will be 10 core sections that apply to all farms, five operational area-based modules (assessed only where relevant) and two crop-specific modules. There has also been a reworking of the produce handling and packhouse packing section to allow this to cover rig-based packing operations and streamline assessment where a valid BRC certificate is held.
Existing standards have been reviewed to take into account site risk assessments and post-harvest water management. Additions have been made to reflect new growing techniques and non-traditional cropping systems such as vertical farms and hydroponics.
There would be new standards for the management of nitrate concentration in crops where legal parameters apply and two new standards to cover post-harvest treatments in the post-CIPC era.
Several new standards are proposed to further strengthen food safety. They include daily start-up checks for harvest teams and two new standards concerning recirculation and re-use of post-harvest water.
Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley said: “We are a proven world leader in food chain assurance, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Red Tractor is recognised as a symbol of British food quality but to maintain this, our standards must continue to evolve with the times, to ensure they address changes in legislation, industry practice and reflect the emerging issues on shoppers’ minds.
“At a time of ever-increasing scrutiny, preserving the public’s trust in UK agriculture and the Red Tractor logo has never been more important. These proposals strive to strike a delicate balance which protects and promotes our members, reassures consumers and customers, while acknowledges the implications of the challenges that the industry faces with future trade deals and the agricultural transition plan.”
The proposed amendments tabled by Red Tractor are primarily about streamlining, legislative compliance and responding to change, Moseley added. These include simplifying some of the requirements for farmers to drive greater understanding and compliance, and rationalising standards which are common across multiple sectors, providing improved clarity for both farmers and their assessors.
The changes also seek to address limitations in the current standards around worker welfare and environmental protection, and proposed changes include the Red Tractor strapline Farmed With Care covering people working on farms.
The full list of proposed changes, supplementary documents on why Red Tractor has reached these decisions and on how to respond to the consultation can be found on the Red Tractor review hub at https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/.
The full consultation can be accessed at https://redtractor.citizenspace.com.