Red Tractor Q&A: How are coronavirus lockdown assessments working?

Lockdown has meant Red Tractor inspections have gone online. Farmers Weekly asked farmers for their queries about the process and put them to Red Tractor.

How are the inspections taking place, given inspectors are unable to visit farms?

Remote assessments are being carried out in two ways:

  • A member can choose to upload relevant documents to the online portal over the course of the days and weeks leading up to the audit, and then complete a condensed live-streamed remote assessment.
  • Alternatively, the whole assessment can be live streamed. In this instance, all documents need to be shown to the assessor using the video calling app.

The procedure for either option needs to be agreed on with the assessor from the certification body ahead of time, using apps such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom Meeting, GoTo Meetings or WhatsApp.

See also:How will TB tests work during the coronavirus pandemic?

What happens if farmers don’t have internet or sufficient connectivity?  

The online portal allows them to upload documents beforehand to reduce the length of the streamed assessment. 

Assessors have been trained to help where connectivity is an issue. For example, they can set up a test call in advance to evaluate connectivity and ask farmers to take pictures or videos of areas of the farm, if connectivity around the yard is an issue. 

There have been very few cases where assessments have not been able to take place.

How does the online portal work? What information will farmers need to upload to the portal?

The Red Tractor Portal is effectively a secure and confidential online filing cabinet, where farmers can upload and store all necessary documents required to demonstrate compliance with the Red Tractor standards.

Assessors will talk farmers through what is needed when they arrange the remote assessment.

How long should be set aside for the assessment?

Assessors contact the farmer to arrange the appointment. For those who have uploaded their documents to the secure online portal, the live-streamed element of the assessment is typically shorter than a physical assessment. The amount of time can vary per sector.

For a fully-streamed audit farmers should set aside the same amount of time as they would for a physical assessment.

What steps are you taking to ensure personal details are secure?

We encrypt data flowing between the portal and your browser using secure sockets layer (SSL)/transport layer security (TLS). In addition, files held in the portal are encrypted.

Farmers continue to own the rights of the document they upload, so they can delete them at any time.

What happens if farmers have non-conformances due to coronavirus? Will extensions be given?

We continue to expect every member to meet every standard every day. All non-conformances raised during the assessment will be discussed by the farmer and their certification body in the usual way.

Are there any issues that have come up since you started virtual inspections and what are you are going to do to address these?

We have completed more than 2,000 audits. The vast majority have been fine. Some issues with connectivity have been worked through with certification bodies and we are collecting feedback to iron out issues that may arise.  

Will you be making membership fee reductions, given a full service can’t be carried out?

Red Tractor receives only a small proportion of the fee farmers pay to their certification body to carry out their assurance assessment.

We believe the remote regime is sufficiently robust to replace physical inspections through this period. 

How many inspections have been carried out so far and how many are left to go?

In the past six weeks we have completed more than 2,000 remote assessments across all the sectors we cover, with 1,500 more booked over the next few weeks.