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Members urged to respond to consultation on Red Tractor changes

5th Jan 2021 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has urged members to engage in an important new consultation that proposes significant changes to Red Tractor’s standards.

Red Tractor new logoThe farm assurance body has today opened a consultation on how the standards should look across all six of its sectors, also including beef and lamb, poultry, dairy, fresh produce and combinable crops and sugar beet.

The first review of its standards for four years have been developed over 12 months, with input from representatives from across the food chain – farming organisations, inlcuding NPA, farmers, vets, processors and retailers. 

Red Tractor said it has also listened to British consumers and the recommendations made in a review of the scheme by Dr Jonathan Birnie in 2019, which identified limitations in the current standards around animal and worker welfare and environmental protection. Examples of proposed changes in these areas include:

Animal Welfare, including housing structure and cleanliness and making it absolutely clear what is and isn’t acceptable when handling animals.

Worker Welfare to ensure members are taking sensible steps to protect the safety and wellbeing of workers on farm.

Environmental Protection, including the inclusion of the Farming Rules for Water, which are already legislation and aim to reduce soil erosion and nutrient run-off.

Pig standard changes

There are a number of proposed changes to the pig standards, including:

Welfare Code statutory requirements: Red Tractor’s proposed new pig standards mirror Defra’s revised Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Pigs, which covers requirements around tail docking, enrichment, accommodation and record keeping.

Animal welfare: A new standard being consulted on would require all people involved with pigs to undergo an online training course in handling provided by
the AHDB.

Additionally, Red Tractor’s requirements around handling could also be strengthened to make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable.

In some cases, the proposed changes are recommendations for producers, highlighting the ‘direction of travel’, rather than being enshrined in standards.

Animal medicines: There is a new draft standard requiring training in medicines and antimicrobial resistance, aligned to requirements in other Red Tractor farm schemes.

A new standard requiring persistent high users of antibiotics to implement an antibiotic reduction plan has also been proposed.

These changes are intended to build on the ‘huge strides’ pig producers have made so far in recording antibiotic use and would support the pig sector in meeting the next set of RUMA’s Targets Taskforce targets for antimicrobial stewardship.

Biosecurity: New standards have been drafted aimed at minimising the risk of disease spread between and within farms. Deadstock collection would have to be done at the perimeter of the farm and members would be required to sign up to the industry’s Significant Diseases Charter, which aims to ensure rapid communication of disease outbreaks.

The consultation

The proposed changes are now out for consultation for two months - consultation and review closes on March 5. Red Tractor is seeking input from across the industry before finalising the scheme standards from November 2021.

NPA reaction

Zoe Davies1The NPA has played an important part in shaping the pig sector standards, with the involvement of chief executive Zoe Davies on the technical advisory committee and producer Phil Stephenson representing NPA members on the pork sector board.

Zoe said: “This is a significant revision of Red Tractor’s standards and it is really important that members take a good look at the proposals and respond to the consultation by March 5. Red Tractor has made it as easy as possible to make your views known on the individual proposals.

“We have been involved throughout the process and, while we don’t necessarily agree with all of the final proposals, we have secured changes in some areas where the original proposals could have been more problematic for members and pushed for some to come in as recommendations as opposed to full standards to give producers more time to adapt. 

"Many of the changes however reflect the new Defra pig welfare code, so are necessary to bring the standards in line with the law.

“We will issue our detailed response to the consultation and make it available to members for comment, but it is equally important for individual members to respond too.”

Red Tractor view

Red Tractor said the proposed amendments are primarily about streamlining, legislative compliance and responding to change.

These include simplifying some of the requirements for farmers to drive greater understanding and compliance, and rationalising standards which are common across multiple sectors, providing improved clarity for both farmers and their assessors.

It said the three-stage process for changing the standards - ‘committee, consultation and consensus’ - adheres to gold standard recommendations of the British Standards Institute

Jim MoseleyCEO Jim Moseley said: “We are a proven world leader in food chain assurance, but we cannot rest on our laurels.

“Red Tractor is recognised as a symbol of British food quality but to maintain this, our standards must continue to evolve with the times, to ensure they address changes in legislation, industry practice and reflect the emerging issues on shoppers’ minds.

“At a time of ever-increasing scrutiny, preserving the public’s trust in UK agriculture and the Red Tractor logo has never been more important.

“These proposals strive to strike a delicate balance which protects and promotes our members, reassures consumers and customers, while acknowledges the implications of the challenges that the industry faces with future trade deals and the agricultural transition plan.”

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