The NFU has submitted a detailed response to a consultation on how Red Tractor standards should look across the six farming sectors, calling for a fresh approach and sets out key principles to guide the standards body to improve its offer to scheme members.
As part of its response, the NFU has highlighted how in some sectors an imbalance exists between the production standards expected of UK farmers, compared with those required of foreign imports.
After 75 meetings across all its regions engaging with 3,000 members, the NFU developed eight key principles for the Red Tractor scheme. The are:
Continue to retain trust and support growth in the domestic market for British food.
Provide an assurance platform for growth in the export market for British food and ensure high value exports have robust assurance supporting traceability claims.
Retain its leading position on cost effective assurance and protect members from inspection and regulatory duplication. Any additional costs associated with implementing new standards should be supported with a clear and simple cost benefit analysis or business case.
Be empowered to challenge duplicity within the marketplace and not facilitate the hypocrisy of buyers sourcing policies which undermines domestic standards.
Seek to add value through segmentation and market differentiation where there is a need to deliver different value propositions to different markets, without inflating the core standard and eroding value to scheme members.
Provide marketing choice for buyers. Scheme options, or bolt-ons, could provide competition for cost-effective or a more practicable alternative for brands and scheme members alike.
Provide a viable but discretionary alternative to new or increasing regulatory burdens and it should deliver efficient. solutions in areas that are susceptible to regulatory burdens.
Explore the opportunities for inspections to be driven by outcomes and data, and where possible reduce the burden of inspection and add value back to farmers.
NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts called the Red Tractor standards the bedrock of UK agriculture, and said that continued support for the Red Tractor assurance scheme will be crucial not just at home and help to bolster ‘Brand Britain’ in other territories.
He said, however, that some some of the proposed changes in the consultation provoked strong feelings within NFU membership, particularly concerning how the proposed changes demonstrate value back to the farm gate.
In the arable sector, for example, where there is limited use of the Red Tractor logo on end products, members raised concerned that the high standards delivered domestically are undermined by imports competing in the same market.
“There is a real risk that farmers and growers will not see deliverable benefits from the Red Tractor scheme without properly addressing these concerns,” said Roberts. “That’s why we are calling for a fresh approach.
“We’ve set out eight key principles that Red Tractor and the six farming sectors should use as a guide when developing standards now and in the future. We believe this will ensure that Red Tractor standards are more meaningful for farmers, increase relevance and integrity within the food supply chain, and importantly, deliver value back to the farm.
“There needs to be more transparency about what standards the supply chains are asking for and whether these can be matched by imported product.
He added that the scheme must show it is listening and provide confidence to farmers and growers that new standards are outcome focused, not just a tick box exercise.
“Now more than ever, we need to ensure that all our standards on British food, whether for animal welfare, food safety or environmental protection, meet the needs of both farmers and the public,” he said.