Red Tractor reviews: latest update

Aerial of UK farmland

Read the latest on Red Tractor including news on Campbell Tickell's Review of Red Tractor Governance.

At its quarterly council meeting, during October 2023, NFU Council passed a resolution highlighting its concerns about the delivery of Red Tractor’s new bolt-on environmental module, the GFC (Greener Farms Commitment).

NFU Council called for an independent review and agreed that the ambition should be for work to be completed in time for its next meeting in January. This review – Review 1 – is for those that are directly involved with the governance of Red Tractor, such as Sector Boards, TACs (Technical Advisory Committees) and the Assured Food Standards Board. It will review Red Tractor’s decision-making procedures and its transparency, examine who is consulted by Red Tractor in its development of standards and look at the balance of this feedback, and how Red Tractor engages with these stakeholders.

A second, larger review, will look at repurposing assurance in a post-Brexit world. This review – Review 2 – is an industry-wide review, aimed at seeking feedback from all farmers and growers about all farm assurance schemes with a view to revolutionising farm to fork assurance, and making it truly fit for the future.

You can track the progress of each review on this page, which we have updated to give it a new look and feel and to help you get to the latest information quickly on the progress of both reviews.

19 February 2024

Campbell Tickell Review of Red Tractor Governance published

The NFU has received the final report on Red Tractor Governance from Campbell Tickell.

The report, delivered within the desired timeframe, makes important recommendations to improve the governance of Red Tractor, not least in recognition of the challenging environment in which farm assurance now operates.

It found Red Tractor followed the agreed governance pathway to arrive at the Greener Farms Commitment module.

The report urges that, alongside governance changes, Red Tractor makes a sustained effort to communicate its purpose and engage further with scheme members.

The Red Tractor owners, including the NFU, expect that the Red Tractor board and leadership will reflect and act on its recommendations.

We believe that this review presents a vital opportunity for Red Tractor to consider its future, addressing challenges such as devolved agricultural policy, and supply chain fairness, and ensuring that UK food production has a secure future.

We also look forward to sharing more information soon about the second, wider, review of farm assurance and outlining ways our members can help shape the future.

We want to thank Campbell Tickell for taking on this report, recognising the strength of feeling across the industry on this subject, and for their professional approach to the task.

You can download Campbell Tickell's report at: Red Tractor Independent Governance Review.

23 January 2024

‘It’s time for change’ – NFU and AHDB to commission independent review of farm assurance

The NFU and AHDB have announced the next steps for a jointly run independent review of farm to fork assurance.

Both organisations believe now is the right time to conduct a robust and transparent review to ensure assurance schemes are fit for purpose in the modern farming environment, for both their members and for home and international markets.

The review, which will seek to capture views from across the whole industry, including farmers, growers, merchants and processors, will examine:

  • How farm assurance can deliver value back to scheme members.
  • How standards are developed to meet the evolving needs of members, the markets they serve, sector diversity and in appreciation of the global marketplace.
  • How assurance members are engaged with (including the development of standards), inspected and how technology is used in assurance now and in future.
  • How assurance schemes can and should fit with regulation and government schemes to best serve members.

Inevitably Red Tractor will be considered as part of this process, as it is the dominant assurance scheme in many key sectors, but this is only a part of the purpose of the review, which is focused on all areas of farm assurance.

Both the NFU and AHDB agree that, as it is almost 25 years since the creation of Red Tractor, there is a need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about all farm assurance schemes to ensure the needs of farmers are met.

The next steps include appointing an independent commission to oversee the review and ensure full transparency and the opportunity for farmers and industry to have their say.

Further details will be announced in due course.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “The world is very different to the way it was when farm assurance schemes started in the UK some 25 years ago, not least thanks to huge changes in the way food is produced, coupled with increased interest from consumers about where their food comes from.

“It’s time for change. Farmers and growers don’t feel that many schemes currently work for them. This review will see us go back to basics to look at the future of assurance and I would encourage the entire industry to positively engage with it.

“Food safety, branding, provenance, differing sector needs and sustainability are just some areas that farm assurance is trying to address. It is right to ask how these areas can be delivered without giving away value from the farm gate.”

AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir said: “We are consistent in stating that it is vital that the reputation of levy payers' produce is maintained by assurance and where relevant, audits, to underpin the work we do on behalf of the industry in regard to promotion in the home and export markets.

“This independent evidence based review will allow us all to understand and address the future needs and opportunities that assurance has to play for the successful future of our industry.”

The AHDB is conducting two additional pieces of work to provide independent insight into assurance schemes, how they operate and why they are needed.

In the Beef and Lamb sector, it will explore how domestic farm standards compare with our international competitors. The first stage of this work will be complete by the end of March 2024.

In the Cereals and Oilseeds sector, AHDB will set out what assurance covers and how it currently works for the different supply sources into our market. It is developing the terms of reference for this work, working with industry, and expect that this work will be complete by next summer.

All of this work will be made available to the Commissioners to help inform the strategic review as appropriate.

22 January 2024

Red Tractor Governance Review – Campbell Tickell update NFU Council on progress

NFU Council today received an update from consultancy firm Campbell Tickell, on the review of Red Tractor Governance.

Since the end of November, Campbell Tickell has been undertaking a review which looks at the governance of Red Tractor. While the work is ongoing, NFU Council were updated on the review methodology, the interview process, including the theme of questions for those who were interviewed and included how they feel the Red Tractor governance currently operates across the various structures of Red Tractor, as well as carrying out surveys and reviews of current documents and procedures.

Work to date has identified there is much agreement that UK food assurance has a vital continuing role, while there are questions around how exactly the role of farm assurance should be defined in today’s more challenging environment. The review has also found that the processes and documentation in place are largely sound.

The consultants also indicated to NFU Council that they have been made very aware of the heated debate around the topic and had heard opposing accounts of the process that was followed from respondents.

In terms of the governance review, this in turn goes back to questions of trust, communication and understanding of how each part of the Red Tractor structure is intended to function, all of which require urgent attention. Council also heard from Campbell Tickell that the reviews into Red Tractor were a once in a generation opportunity to rebuild trust and relevance. 

Recommendations from this review will be outlined in a final report by Campbell Tickell, which they confirmed is on track to be delivered later in February.

During this review, Campbell Tickell said it had gathered views that are highly relevant to the second review which it will pass on. Review 2, is an industry wide review, which will look at farm assurance as a whole.  

Plans for Review 2 are being finalised, and more information will be published in the coming days.  

3 January 2024

NFU responds to member queries on Campbell Tickell surveys

The governance review of Red Tractor commissioned by the NFU, being conducted by Campbell Tickell, has prompted some questions from members.

The remit of Campbell Tickell for this first review was only ever focused on those already directly involved in Red Tractor governance, such as Sector Boards, TACs (Technical Advisory Committees) and the Assured Food Standards Board.

Campbell Tickell has designed a number of different surveys to make questions relevant to each part of the Red Tractor decision making structures.

This is because Review 1 is a deep dive into structural and governance concerns within Red Tractor, and those directly involved are best placed to comment on these intricacies.

NFU representatives who sit on the respective TACs and boards have all been given an opportunity to input so far, and we will be ensuring the concerns of the NFU and its members are put across clearly.

Given this focus, Campbell Tickell’s remit is not to seek a broad input from the entire industry at this stage.

Importantly, the upcoming second review will be the opportunity to do this. As always intended, Review 2 will be a much more comprehensive review, inviting input from all farmers and all parts of the industry.

The upcoming NFU Council meeting on 22 January will receive an update on both reviews. We will be communicating plans for the second review to the wider membership once the Food, Farming and Environment Board and Council have had a chance to discuss them in January.

You can read more about the reviews on our dedicated page: Red Tractor reviews – your questions answered.

28 November 2023

Timeline and scope of first review is agreed

The timeline and scope for the first review into Red Tractor governance has been agreed.

The creation of two critical reviews was announced after NFU Council questioned whether Red Tractor provides value for producers at its meeting on 23 October.

Following an extensive search, the NFU has appointed consultants Campbell Tickell to complete the independent review into the governance of Red Tractor. A multi-disciplinary management consultancy, specialising in governance, Campbell Tickell advises charitable, not-for-profit and public sector organisations.

The review will establish Red Tractor’s decision-making procedures and its transparency, examine who is consulted by Red Tractor in its development of standards and look at the balance of this feedback, and how Red Tractor engages with stakeholders.

Having examined the effectiveness of these processes, the review will identify any obstacles which need addressing. Through interviews and survey work, the review team will speak to a cross-section of those involved across the Red Tractor process, including farmer representatives, to determine how those processes work currently.

In late January, the emerging findings of that review will be presented to NFU Council and the Red Tractor Ownership Body which has agreed to own the findings of the review and also approved the terms of reference. The final report should be made available in mid-February.

Scope of the review

For the Red Tractor governance review the terms of reference and scope include:

  • Establish Red Tractor’s decision-making procedures and their transparency.
  • Examine who is consulted by Red Tractor in its development of standards, and when.
  • Look at the balance of this feedback and how Red Tractor engages with farmers.
  • Examine the effectiveness of these processes and identify the obstacles which need addressing.
  • Speak to those involved across the Red Tractor process in determining all these things.

The Board went on to scope out a longer-term review of farm assurance generally, again to meet the request of NFU Council. This will commence in the coming weeks with NFU member ‘conversations’ structured to surface the full range of strengths and weaknesses in terms of farm assurance which will then feed in to the wider review.

We are in discussion with AHDB to ensure that our separate proposals for a wider review are consolidated into a jointly commissioned independent review.

The NFU will continue to update its members as the process develops.

This page was first published on 28 November 2023. It was updated on 19 February 2024.

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  • February 2024: Campbell Tickell publishes its report on Review 1.
  • January 2024: NFU Council received an update from consultancy firm Campbell Tickell on Review 1 and announced the next steps on plans for Review 2 – a jointly run independent review of farm to fork assurance.
  • October 2023: NFU Council meets to pass a resolution on the GFC (Greener Farms Commitment) and to agree on the creation of two critical reviews.