Oilseed rape© Tim Scrivener

Red Tractor has been granted a further three-month rollover of its certification scheme for crops grown for the European biofuels market, ending fears the arrangement could lapse in three weeks’ time.

The EU Commission granted a temporary extension back in August to ensure that Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) remains valid as a sustainability certification mechanism for British-grown biofuels.

That extension was due to end on 6 November 2017, but after strong lobbying by the UK farming industry the commission has now agreed to extend it until 6 February 2018.

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The move is significant as without recognition of the RT scheme by Brussels, British-grown crops could not be handled by renewable energy plants because of criteria set down in the Renewable Energy Directive (see “The history”).

About 40% of British-grown oilseed rape is exported and turned into biodiesel on the Continent.

Bioethanol plants in the north-east of England also account for about 2m tonnes of wheat a year.

Full approval

In an update to members, issued on Tuesday (17 October), Red Tractor Assurance said its chief executive, Jim Moseley, had been given a written agreement that its existing approval would be extended into February.

“In the meantime, we have no reason not to expect full approval to be granted for a further five years before the extension expires.”

Red Tractor officials have been in daily contact with Brussels officials over recent weeks in a bid to get a decision before the current extension lapses.

A technical appraisal of the RTA scheme was completed on 29 September 2017.

Tori Morgan, combinable crops adviser for the NFU, said the union had met with the EU Commission on 12 October to stress the urgency of the situation and to explain the potential effect on UK farmers.

The NFU has also had meetings with MEPs to help support Red Tractor in their efforts to secure reapproval.

The history of the Red Tractor biofuel scheme

The Red Tractor scheme has been used since 2012 to show that British crops entering the biofuels supply chain meet the EU’s sustainability criteria, as set out by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

Like all schemes of its kind, the Red Tractor scheme was approved by the EU Commission for a period of five years and every scheme must apply for reapproval at the end of that period.

Red Tractor officials applied for renewal in spring 2017, but the commission was not able to complete the reapproval process in time.

Red Tractor was therefore given an extension until 6 November 2017.