Red Tractor chairwoman to step down for Co-op role

Christine Tacon has announced plans to step down as Red Tractor chairwoman after being appointed to the Co-op board.

Ms Tacon said on X she was “honoured” to be appointed to the Co-op board, voted on by its members, but that this had created a “dilemma” with her role at the farm assurance body.

She added: “After discussions with the [Red Tractor] ownership body, we’ve mutually agreed I’ll step down from Red Tractor to avoid any perceived conflicts.”

See also: Sack the board, if you sack me, says Red Tractor boss

The former Groceries Code adjudicator was appointed as chairwoman of Assured Food Standards, which operates the Red Tractor assurance scheme in 2021.

She previously ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business for more than 10 years between 2000 and 2012.

In a statement published on Red Tractor’s website, Ms Tacon explained that fulfilling both roles in parallel, each of which would require 30-40 days, would not be a problem.

However, she was “acutely aware” of “those with reservations about supermarket power in general, and a lack of trust in Red Tractor from some quarters that needs to be repaired”.

Ms Tacon said she did not want to “risk giving oxygen to those intent on criticising Red Tractor or for this to be the cause of any negative publicity”. She has offered to stay on in the role until a new or interim chairman or woman is appointed.

In March, Red Tractor scrapped plans to introduce the Greener Farms Commitment (GFC), a voluntary bolt-on module to its schemes, following a major farmer backlash.

‘Big opportunity’

Staffordshire farmer and Farming Forum founder Clive Bailye, an outspoken critic of Red Tractor for more than a decade, said Ms Tacon stepping aside was an opportunity for the farm assurance body to effect change.

“The continuing downfall of Red Tractor is that they have been serving the interests of processors and retailers and not farmers,” Mr Bailye told Farmers Weekly.

“For any corporate or organisation that goes through what Red Tractor has, the correct steps to demonstrate change is the change of management,” Mr Bailye said.

“What’s more interesting is who’s going to replace her [Christine Tacon]. Getting that right or wrong is pivotal to Red Tractor.

“This is a big opportunity for Red Tractor to demonstrate that they are serious about changing and they are going back to their roots of being a positive force for farmers.”

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