The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have announced the next steps for a jointly run independent review of farm to fork assurance.

Together, the organisations say 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 scope

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

Red Tractor

It’s stated that Red Tractor will be considered as part of this process as it’s 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’s almost 25 years since the creation of Red Tractor, it’s time to step back and ask some fundamental questions about all farm assurance schemes to ensure the requirements of farmers are met.

Next steps

The next steps include appointing an independent commission to oversee the review and ensure full transparency and to give the opportunity for farmers and industry to have their say. Further details will be announced in due course.

NFU president Minette Batters says 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’d encourage the entire industry to positively engage with it.”

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