The food and drink assurance scheme is ditching its sustainability module after NFU backlash 

Red Tractor Assurance is dropping its Greener Farms Commitment module (GFC) following feedback from its members, the organisation announced today (22 March).

The module was designed to help farmers, processors and retailers demonstrate sustainability in a single, practical and consistent way, Red Tractor said. 

But today the AFS Board of Red Tractor agreed to discontinue the module after taking on board concerns about the impact the GFC would have on many farmers across the UK, it said.

Last October, then NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw hit out at Red Tractor following its announcement of a new voluntary green module, arguing that farmers and the devolved nations had not been sufficiently consulted prior to its release.

The NFU subsequently called for an independent review into Red Tractor governance, the findings of which were published in February.

Commenting on Red Tractor’s decision to axe the module, Christine Tacon, chair of Red Tractor, said that while the module had been conceived with the best of intentions, errors had been made.

“We take responsibility for those issues and are sorry. We hope that by dropping the module, we can close the door on this chapter and move forward,” she said.

“We will only be involved in future environmental standards when all constituencies across the UK food and farming chain, by sector, ask us to and with full consultation.”

Red Tractor’s AFS Board also accepted the conclusions of the Campbell Tickell review of Red Tractor’s Governance and confirmed its commitment to implement all the recommendations.

Tacon continued: “Whilst the review found that ‘Red Tractor governance is sound’, it also sent a clear message about the frustration farmers are feeling. We will act now to improve our communications to farmers, including the transparency of our operations, purpose and benefits and we will strengthen our stakeholder engagement.”

She added: “We will listen more closely to our farmers, for example, Red Tractor has previously found that transparency, audit burden and value are farmers’ top concerns with Red Tractor. Significant efforts are already underway to tackle these, which you will hear more about in the next few months.”

In a joint response to the news that Red Tractor has shelved plans for the Greener Farms Commitment, the four UK farming unions, NFU, NFU Cymru, NFUS and UFU, together with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) – the UK levy board which represents farmers, growers and others in the supply chain – said: “We welcome today’s news that Red Tractor has listened to feedback from its members and has axed the proposed Greener Farms Commitment.

“It’s also pleasing to see a commitment from Red Tractor that it will only consider future environmental standards with sector consensus and full consultation. This is essential in rebuilding trust with farmers from across Britain, something we are pleased that Red Tractor has said is a priority and is already acting upon.”

They added: “We welcome Red Tractor’s desire for a more transparent, open and effective relationship with farmers in future.”

 Red Tractor was established in 2000 to reassure consumers that food and drink carrying its logo was safe and responsibly produced.