Red Tractor axes Greener Farms Commitment permanently

Red Tractor is dropping its green farming assurance standard altogether, following a backlash from farmers.

The British food assurance body said it wouldn’t be continuing the Greener Farms Commitment (GFC), a voluntary standard which was designed so that farmers could show retailers the moves they are making to protect the environment.

Red Tractor had previously said the GFC wouldn’t launch in April as originally planned, but now has axed it altogether – after it cost the British food assurance body nearly £300,000 to develop.

The organisation’s Assured Food Standards (AFS) board agreed to cull the module after considering the impact it would have on UK farms.

Farmers were concerned the GFC had gone too far and that its introduction failed to follow a proper consultancy process. They also argued it would eventually mean they would be forced to meet the green standard to get market access and would have to pay to meet sustainability targets on behalf of retailers.

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AFS chairwoman Christine Tacon said mistakes had been made, but the GFC had been well-intentioned.

She said: “We take responsibility for those issues and are sorry. We hope that by dropping the module, we can close the door on this chapter and move forward.

“We will only be involved in future environmental standards when all constituencies across the UK food and farming chain, by sector, ask us to, and with full consultation.”

She added: “We will listen more closely to our farmers. For example, Red Tractor has previously found that transparency, audit burden and value are farmers’ top concerns with the scheme. Significant efforts are already under way to tackle these, which you will hear more about in the next few months.”

The four key UK farming unions (NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union), along with the AHDB, issued a statement welcoming the news. They had previously called on Red Tractor to axe the GFC.

“We welcome today’s news that Red Tractor has listened to feedback from its members and has axed the proposed Greener Farms Commitment,” they said.

“It’s also pleasing to see a commitment from Red Tractor that it will only consider future environmental standards with sector consensus and full consultation. This is essential in rebuilding trust with farmers from across Britain, something we are pleased that Red Tractor has said is a priority and is already acting upon.

“We welcome Red Tractor’s desire for a more transparent, open and effective relationship with farmers in future.”

Climate crisisFood and farmingNature and the environmentPolicySocial sustainability

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