The NFU has appointed consultants Campbell Tickell to undertake the independent review into the governance of Red Tractor.
The NFU said it appointed the company, a multi-disciplinary management consultancy, specialising in governance, following ‘an extensive search’. 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, it will identify any obstacles which need addressing, the NFU said. The review team will speak to a cross-section of those involved across the Red Tractor process, including farmer representatives, through interviews and survey work to determine how those processes work currently.
Red Tractor’s Ownership Body, which is made up of NFU, NFU Scotland, the Ulster Farmers’ Union, AHDB, the British Retail Consortium and Dairy UK, has agreed to ‘own the findings of the review and also approved the terms of reference’. The review’s terms of reference were also previously approved by the NFU’s Food Farming & Environment Board.
The emerging findings of that review will be presented to NFU Council and the Red Tractor Ownership Body in January and the final report ‘should be made available’ in mid-February.
A second longer-term review of farm assurance generally is also currently being scoped out in conjunction with AHDB. This will commence in the coming weeks with NFU member ‘conversations’ which will then feed into the wider review.
The NFU’s Council agreed the reviews towards the end of October, during a heated discussing over Red Tractor’s plans to introduce a Green Farms Commitment in April to demonstrate the environmental credentials of the food farmers produce, a move that sparked anger across Red Tractors sectors. The GFC, which was developed with retailers but without proper consultation with farmers.
In early November, Red Tractor chair Christine Tacon announced that the assurance body will not progress with the GFC or any new standards until the NFU’s independent review of governance is completed.
“The views of our members are very important, and we are sorry that we have been slow to understand them fully,” Mrs Tacon said.
However, concerns have been expressed about the independence of the governance review, after Famers Weekly’s Abbie Kay reported that Red Tractor’s ownership board was intending to lead it. NFU president Minette Batters insisted the reviews would be independent.