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NSA responds to Red Tractor U turn following its call for root and branch review

1st November 2023

Having last month called for a full review of Red Tractor and its governance, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is welcoming the news of the assurance scheme’s U turn regarding the launch of its Greener Farms’ Commitment (GFC).

NSA had expressed its deep concern that plans for the detail of the GFC had failed to be discussed with those directly impacted and believed the Commitment was taking Red Tractor into the realm of setting environmental policy in isolation rather than getting behind the key environmental and sustainable farming schemes being introduced by Defra.

NSA was pleased to hear that following a meeting of Red Tractor’s Main (AFS) Board last week it was announced that no further progress will now be made on any new Red Tractor standards or additional modules such as the GFS until an independent first review can be completed by the National Farmers Union (NFU).

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says “It is a positive step for Red Tractor to accept that all further developments must be put on hold until the independent review is completed. Questions still remain whether Red Tractor appreciates its approach is contributing to hostility and falling membership across livestock sectors.

NSA now looks forward enthusiastically to any contribution it can make to an independent review.

Mr Stocker continues: “NSA has been consistent in the view that Red Tractor needs to change if we want sheep farmers to join from choice rather than be forced in order to access one particular supply chain. Little consideration has been given to the fact the sheep sector is different to most others – it’s reliance on supermarkets is less with many thousands of small operators who don’t have the same resources and infrastructure as the more industrial sectors. Assurance requirements have to be proportionate and the past move to ‘harmonise’ standards has simply alienated much of the sheep sector.”

NSA Vice President and Red Tractor Sector Council Member, Bryan Griffiths, adds: “It is important to recognise the wave of anger that has swept through the industry is neither anti assurance or anti environmental actions, it is a reaction to the way Red Tractor has disconnected and distanced itself from primary producers, appearing to favour the retail end of the supply chain.

“Hopefully this debacle will lead to the creation of an assurance scheme that commands a sense of ownership with standards and requirements that benefit all, built through a process of true co-design.”