NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw criticises lack of consideration for farmers in assurance add-on

Tom Bradshaw

Tom Bradshaw

Image: NFU

The NFU has hit out at Red Tractor following its announcement of a new voluntary green module, arguing that farmers and the devolved nations have not been sufficiently consulted.

Red Tractor unveiled details of the environment module earlier this week, claiming support from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and stating it had “been determined to secure [an] unprecedented level of support.”

However in an extraordinary statement, NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw - who sits on the Red Tractor board - expressed dismay at the assurance body’s announcement, claiming NFU members’ views have not been taken into account. 

“The NFU has long supported Red Tractor Assurance as vital to allow our members to compete in the marketplaces in which they operate,” Bradshaw said. “Nonetheless, for the past 18 months we have been robustly challenging the governance behind the development of this environment module.

“I was alarmed that it had been previously decided by the Red Tractor board that in developing this module all of the technical committees and sector boards where NFU members sit would be bypassed. I have found this position completely unacceptable and said so repeatedly.

“We have never said that as one of the 18 members of the Red Tractor board we didn’t have knowledge of the module, but at no point have expert NFU members and advisors been involved with the development of the crucial details within it.

“Consequently, at the final Red Tractor board meeting where this was agreed in September, I again argued for greater oversight, and significant concessions were gained by the NFU to allow the module to be scrutinised by the technical advisory committees of all farming sectors and the sector boards. We also fought for and gained agreement to set up a Development Advisory Panel to further scrutinise development of the greener farms work.”

Devolved nations ‘not involved’

Bradshaw said the NFU had highlighted ”significant concerns about how this could work in the devolved nations with their differing agricultural policies”, adding that they have not been involved at all.

“With these concessions won we felt that the board could approve the position, sending it out for this wider scrutiny,” he continued. “The surprising BRC statement on the Greener Farms commitment has made many question the validity of the process agreed above.

“As it stands, there has been no clear vision delivered as to how this is going to add any value to farm gate and yet it will help retailers deliver more of their ESG requirements, which ultimately brings value.

“I, more than anyone, want British farming to stand up to the challenges of imports from around the world; to demonstrate the sustainability credentials of British farming and to drive solutions to the environmental challenges we face. This module could provide some of the solutions if deployed in the correct sectors and with minimal cost burden, and after the proper scrutiny that was agreed.

“Ultimately however, the additional cost cannot be shouldered by our farmer members and the supply chain will have to pay a premium for the associated increase in costs.”