Red Tractor to tighten on-farm inspection regime

Farmers who are regularly falling short of Red Tractor standards will be faced with more frequent on-farm inspections from November as the organisation seeks to strengthen the integrity of the farm-assured brand.

Announcing the new “risk-based” inspection regime at a briefing in London on Monday (10 September), Red Tractor Assurance chief executive Jim Moseley said the ultimate aim was that “every signed-up farmer should be complying with every single standard, every day of the year”.

See also: What’s it like to be a Red Tractor assessor?

“For the vast majority of farmers in the UK, that regime already works,” he said. “But obviously there are always opportunities for improvement.

 “We will increase the inspection frequency for those farmers who are failing to comply with all of the standards every day, and many of those audits will become unannounced audits.”

This would start in November 2018 and would give consumers greater confidence in the robustness of the scheme.

Currently about 60,000 farmers face an annual inspection, explained Mr Moseley. Given that data is routinely collected by Red Tractor inspectors to measure the level of compliance, it is easy to spot those farmers who need more scrutiny to up their performance.

What is Red Tractor up to?

  • Revised inspection regime to encourage greater compliance
  • Plans for a “complete assurance” scheme, adding organic, environmental and animal welfare modules, with specific logos
  • New £1.5m TV, print and social media campaign 

Streamlined

Mr Moseley confirmed there was no plan to reduce the number of inspections for fully compliant farmers. “Any consumer would expect farmers and growers to get at least an annual inspection,” he said.

However, there are plans to streamline the inspection regime, using technology to capture the information farmers record on a daily basis anyway, in order to determine compliance with Red Tractor standards.

“We want to work with those excellent farmers to develop an online portal so we can collect the data, which will make our inspections a lot shorter as we will not need to do the level of record-keeping that we currently do on farm.”

‘Complete assurance’

As well as beefing up the inspection regime, Red Tractor also announced plans to become the “flagship of British food and farming” by including new “modules” to stand alongside its basic “core” standards.

These new modules could cover things like organic farming, environmental improvement or enriched animal welfare.

The aim is to provide a “one-stop shop” so consumers does not become confused by the plethora of other assurance schemes that already exist to meet these specific interests.

“Our aim is that, ultimately, Red Tractor will be able to offer that broader choice,” said Mr Moseley.

It will result in much clearer labelling for consumers, simpler auditing for farmers and reduced cost for processors and retailers.

Mr Moseley confirmed that Red Tractor had already been in discussion with Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf) Marque and the Soil Association to gauge interest in a collaborative approach, and had invited the RSPCA to open discussions.

The aim is to launch a new set of modular standards by the end of 2019, once international benchmarking and further consumer research has been completed.

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