NFU-commissioned independent review finds “no breach of procedure” in Red Tractor governance

An independent review of farm assurance scheme Red Tractor makes recommendations but finds no breach of procedure, the NFU reveals.

The Red Tractor

The Red Tractor logo was established in 2000

The report by Campbell Tickell, published today (19 February), makes important recommendations to improve the governance of Red Tractor in recognition of the challenging environment in which farm assurance now operates, the NFU said. But it found Red Tractor followed the agreed governance pathway to arrive at the Greener Farms Commitment module.

The NFU called for an independent review into Red Tractor governance last October over concerns about the delivery of its new bolt-on environmental module, the GFC (Greener Farms Commitment).

It wanted an investigation into Red Tractor’s decision-making procedures and its transparency, an examination into who is consulted by Red Tractor in its development of standards and the balance of this feedback, and how Red Tractor engages with these stakeholders.

Alongside governance recommendations, today’s report urges that Red Tractor makes a sustained effort to communicate its purpose and engage further with scheme members.

“The Red Tractor owners, including the NFU, expect that the Red Tractor board and leadership will reflect and act on its recommendations,” the NFU said.

“We believe that this review presents a vital opportunity for Red Tractor to consider its future, addressing challenges such as devolved agricultural policy and supply chain fairness, and ensuring that UK food production has a secure future.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, Red Tractor chair Christine Tacon commented: “The review reports that ‘Red Tractor governance is sound’ and Campbell Tickell have found ‘no procedural breach’.

“It also flags that ‘Red Tractor is perhaps significantly more transparent than other assurance schemes’ and acknowledges that this, together with its representative structure, leads to governance complexity. Red Tractor needs to respond to this, particularly given the current pressure of a challenging operating environment,” she said.

“The review sends a clear message about the level of frustration farmers feel and we need to listen carefully to their views. We will also continue to increase our efforts and investment in communicating Red Tractor’s purpose and benefits to farmer members.”

Campbell Tickell’s recommendations include:

1. Create and publish a Governance Handbook: To address issues around lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities.

2. Introduce a formal process of appraisal for Board and Committee members: To foster a culture of continuous improvement within the governance of the organisation and enable opportunities for ongoing simplification and streamlining.

3. Develop and adopt a Board Member Code of Conduct: To balance two considerations: That company law requires directors to act in the best interests of the company; and that those interests can sometimes conflict with the interests of the body the director represents.

4. Ensure that aspects of the Code of Conduct have application to the wider governance community.

5. Address stakeholder engagement and relations as a priority: We understand that Red Tractor intends to commit resource and time to engaging with farmers in coming months, explaining its work and purpose. We recommend that this be done as soon as practicable. This effort needs to be matched by the Ownership Bodies.

6. Review and revise the Red Tractor risk map: so that it can be fit for purpose in the new environment.

Red Tractor was established in 2000 to reassure consumers that food and drink carrying its logo was safe and responsibly produced, and is the trading name of Assured Food Standards.