Union responds to Red Tractor consultation

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has welcomed the opportunity to comment on the Red Tractor Assured Food Standards (AFS) consultation.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 8:28 am

As one of the founders of Red Tractor and with a large proportion of its membership being members of the Red Tractor scheme, many have contacted the UFU concerned with several of the proposed standards across the sectors.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “Red Tractor’s AFS consultation is of huge significance to our members who are involved in the Red Tractor scheme as it will directly impact their farm business. The relevant commodity committees have listened and reported the opinions from our members throughout the consultation process and have now responded accordingly to the proposed changes in detail for their sectors.
“There is broad support for Red Tractor’s original purpose of delivering assurance for food safety and traceability, and it is important that we recognise that this remains of strategic importance to UK agriculture.

“However, our members have raised clear and wide-ranging worries regarding several of the proposed standards across the sectors. There are serious concerns about the lack of clarity regarding the purpose or benefit of the proposed changes and where they will lead to. If these concerns from members are not addressed, there is a risk of detachment from the scheme.”

Chestnutt continued: “Our members have strongly disagreed with proposals under the new environmental standards primarily because it’s already covered under the Cross Compliance legislation in Northern Ireland (NI). By including this as a standard, Red Tractor are duplicating what is already legislated by NI authorities and going beyond the requirements of farm assurance.
“The feelings of frustration from many livestock members are borne from the belief that Red Tractor lacks trust in their competence and ability to care for their animals.”

He further commented: “Proposals for requiring a certificate of competence and professional services to plan feed rations or administer veterinary medicines, has given the impression that Red Tractor views their farmers as being unqualified to carry out daily tasks which many have been doing their entire working lives.

“Members have also called into question where the evidence for these proposals lie and have demonstrated that there is a genuine risk to either the farmer or the animal’s health and welfare.”

Chestnutt concluded: “It’s vital that the communication between Red Tractor and its scheme members improves. This is essential to achieving the support the scheme needs to move forward. As a key stakeholder of the Red Tractor, the UFU would welcome the opportunity to discuss how this can be done.”