NFU Sugar board member Kit Papworth discusses the Red Tractor standards review consultation, explaining why it is vital that sugar beet growers engage fully in the consultation.
Kit represents NFU Sugar on the Red Tractor technical advisory committee (TAC) and the crops and sugar beet board.
Kit said: "This consultation has landed at a time when the sector is already facing a number of challenges and demands on grower time. With multiple government consultations open including urea usage and gene editing", it is safe to say that we are in consultation overload and I fear fatigue could set in. Personally, I would have preferred to see the Red Tractor consultation delayed, given current political and global situations.
"Nevertheless, the consultation launched this week so it is vital that we stand up for ourselves to make our views heard. I have sat in many Red Tractor board meetings and made the point that we are not adverse to change, but that change must work for farmers. The draft standards are not fit for purpose and do not work for sugar growers. Many of the standards are carried over from fresh produce. They are excessive for sugar beet farmers, particularly for those who do not also grow fresh produce.
"As you are aware, all homegrown sugar beet sold to British Sugar must be Red Tractor assured, therefore this is a crucial consultation for our industry.
"The format of the consultation is focused around the ‘Red Tractor 2021 review hub’. We are focused on the combinable crops and sugar beet standards, in partnership with the NFU crops board, and other NFU teams are providing scrutiny to the other sector standards proposed.
"I encourage you to fill out the ‘have your say on the review of Red Tractor standards’ section rather than the five minute survey that asks ‘let us know what matters to you and your business’. The main standards review does take much longer as it runs through whether you agree or disagree with each standard proposed but it is vital that we engage with this.
"I strongly recommend paying particular attention to the environmental protection and personnel sections, to consider how the proposed standards contained within these sections would work on your farm.
"It is critical that all growers get involved with the consultation and make their views known to Red Tractor."
- 5 January: consultation opens to all stakeholders
- 5 March: consultation closes
- April/May: technical advisory committees and sector boards consider feedback
- June/July: new standards and recommendations published
- 1 November: new standards apply, inspections begin