Producers urged to engage in consultation on major changes to Red Tractor standards

Red Tractor is urging members to engage in a consultation on some significant changes to its standards.

A consultation opened today setting out  proposals on how the standards should look across the scheme’s six sectors – beef and lamb, poultry, pigs, dairy, fresh produce and combinable crops and sugar beet.

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 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: Having welfare outcomes linked to standards, including housing structure and cleanliness and making it absolutely clear what is and isn’t acceptable when handling animals.

Worker Welfare: Building worker welfare into the standards to ensure members are taking sensible steps to protect the safety and wellbeing of workers on farm.

Environmental Protection: The changes cover the Farming Rules for Water, which are already legislation and aim to reduce soil erosion and nutrient run-off. The requirements have been adapted from the legal requirements to ensure they are meaningful and can be easily assessed.

Red Tractor is seeking input from across the industry before finalising its proposition of what the schemes standards will be from November 2021. The consultation and review closes on 5 March 2021.

The proposals have been developed over 12 months and Red Tractor said that at every step of the process, representatives from across the food chain – farming organisations, farmers, vets, processors and retailers – have been fully involved in drawing up the amendments.

The three-stage process of ‘committee consultation and consensus’ adheres to gold standard recommendations of the British Standards Institute, it said.

Proposed amendments to standards by sector include:

Dairy 

Animal husbandry: Under the proposals from November 2021, tethering as a management practice would no longer be permitted. Husbandry procedures have also been separated into a standalone section for ease of navigation and to highlight the importance of this area.

Animal medicines: The change in standards would encompass wider coverage of the medicines used by dairy farmers in the annual review, rather than just antibiotics as it is currently. The consultation is asking for views on requiring the antibiotic collated data to be uploaded to an industry medicine hub in the future to help demonstrate that Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) Targets Taskforce objectives are met.

Animal welfare: Welfare outcomes have been linked to standards. This includes housing structure and cleanliness. Red Tractor requirements around handling could be strengthened to make clear what is and isn’t acceptable under the proposals.

Beef & lamb

Animal husbandry: Under the proposals from November 2021, tethering as a management practice would no longer be permitted. Husbandry procedures have also been separated into a standalone section for ease of navigation and to highlight the importance of this area.

Animal medicines: Health planning could be strengthened to give members an insight into any issues at farm in  a timely manner. Farmers would be asked to annually collate their total antibiotic use on the farm so that meaningful reviews can take place with their vet to reduce antibiotic use where appropriate.

The consultation is asking for views on requiring the antibiotic collated data to be uploaded to an industry medicine hub in the future to help demonstrate that RUMA Targets Taskforce objectives are met. A proposed new standard is for at least one person who is responsible for administering medicines to have undertaken training and hold a certificate of attendance or competence.

Animal health and welfare: A requirement to be part of a disease eradication programme for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) would be upgraded from a recommendation to a full standard in 2023. Red Tractor requirements around handling could be strengthened to make clear what is and isn’t acceptable under the proposals.

Pigs

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

Animal medicines: Red Tractor pig producers have made
huge strides in recording antibiotic use in their herds, and the 2021 changes being proposed include developing the future Pig Health and Welfare Pathway and the next set of RUMA’s Targets Taskforce targets for antimicrobial stewardship.

The standards would support the pig sector as a whole to meet some of the objectives set out by these initiatives. 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.

Animal welfare: The way producers move and handle pigs is crucial for both welfare and the industry’s reputation. A new standard being consulted on would require all persons 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, under the proposals.

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.

Poultry

Animal welfare: Across all poultry species, each crop would require the light intensity to be measured and recorded at bird-eye level to confirm that farms are meeting the standards.

Lighting for ducks would be phased on and off over a 30-minute dawn-dusk period and there is a new recommendation for windows in all buildings which house ducks. It is proposed that only slower growing breeds can be used for free range chicken production to ensure that breeds are suitable for the method of production.

Biosecurity: Standards are being revised and simplified to help with consistency and ease of auditing. Requirements have been grouped – for example site access for people, site access for vehicles, hand cleanliness and footwear.

Compliance and consistency: Members will notice that all chicken enterprises are now grouped together, including the new enhanced welfare module. This would ensure that core requirements are standardised across all enterprises and species.

Fresh produce

Structure: Members will see a new framework to the standards. There will be 10 core sections which apply to all farms, five operational area-based modules (assessed only where relevant) and two crop-specific modules. There has also been a reworking of the produce handling and packhouse packing section to allow this to cover rig-based packing operations and streamline assessment where a valid BRC certificate is held.

Risk management: Existing standards have been reviewed
to take into account site risk assessments and post-harvest water management. Additions have been made to reflect new growing techniques and non-traditional cropping systems such as vertical farms and hydroponics.

Legal compliance: There would be new standards for
the management of nitrate concentration in crops where legal parameters apply and two new standards to cover post-harvest treatments in the post-CIPC era.

Food safety: Several new standards are proposed to further strengthen food safety. They include daily start-up checks for harvest teams and two new standards concerning recirculation and re-use of post-harvest water.

Combinable crops and sugar beet

Risk Assessment: This would appear as a new section
on the standards but brings together
a number of existing requirements into one area for clarity.

Irrigation: A number of revisions have been proposed, all with the aim of providing clarity on what is required where a member is irrigating crops.

Environment: Some changes to the storage of plant protection products have been outlined based on best practice.

Red Tractor comment 

Jim Moseley

Jim Moseley

The assurance body’s CEO Jim Moseley said: “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.”

Mr Moseley added: “Farmers have been an intrinsic part of the process in drawing up the proposed new standards, but now it is over to the membership and stakeholders to have their say.”

Get Our E-Newsletter - breaking news to your in-box twice a week
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
Share.

About The Author