Farmer Focus: Red Tractor must win over hearts and minds

February into March has been a month of maintenance, ground works and farm inspections.

We have refurbished the idlers on the Case 9230 combine. The tracks were running out of line and tearing the drive teeth off.

We have also tried to renew the tracks on the Challenger. However, there is a worldwide shortage of tracks, so they won’t be fitted for this year’s spring work.  

See also: NFU urges Red Tractor to end supply chain ‘hypocrisy’

We have started our new catchment-sensitive concrete apron, partly funded with grant money, but with the majority coming out of my back pocket.

Four sediment traps and a lot of 15cm twin wall and we haven’t made it out of the ground yet. We were then held up because the reinforcing mesh was in short supply globally – can you see a theme?

Then the inspections. I don’t mind them per se – it’s a job that needs doing. The Animal and Plant Health Agency inspection for the licensed finishing unit was very straightforward – things are much easier when people work with you.

As for Red Tractor – who do they think they are? They have no ability to work with you. When you need to work with farmers, you have to win over hearts and minds.

After I politely refused to do the audit online, I was told that meant I would be suspended from the scheme. I could see no problem with walking round the yard at a safe distance and with the appropriate safety measures in place.

Everybody else that has had to visit during this period didn’t have a problem. Eventually, I capitulated and spent five hours on a WhatsApp call with 4G dropping in and out – a complete farce.

I think many in the industry are sick of Red Tractor.

Who dreams up all the extra add-ons, so that your standard template can’t be used every year?

To paraphrase George Patton, the Second World War general: “Red Tractor is like a broken cannon. You can’t fire it”.

A previous version of this article stated that imported milling wheat that has been commingled with UK wheat can still be labelled a Red Tractor product. This is incorrect. Only produce that has been grown or reared in the UK can be labelled Red Tractor.

Doug Dear is a Farmer Focus writer from Yorkshire. Read his biography