Red Tractor will begin a phased return to physical inspections next week, following the switch to remote inspections in March.
In line with the general easing of lockdown, from Monday, July 6, the resumption of on-farm Red Tractor inspections will begin, principally for those who meet the following criteria:
- New applicants wishing to become Red Tractor assured
- Those who have been identified as a poorer performer as part of Red Tractor’s risk-based approach
- Where live streaming is not a credible option.
Physical assessments will only take place with the full agreement from the farmer and assessor on health and safety precautionary measures to take, ahead of any visit.
The assurance scheme is stressing that at this stage, most inspections will continue to be conducted remotely. But this dual approach for farm members, means that from the July 6, inspections will return to being compulsory.
A further 200 pig members are scheduled to have their assessments in the coming weeks.
Red Tractor chairman Jim Moseley said: “As we move towards a semblance of normality, with the relaxing of social distancing and travel restrictions, it is important that we take a sensible and measured sustainable approach to how we deliver our inspection regimes.”
Red Tractor said the introduction of the new remote assessment regime for farmer members in March in response to government advice on COVID-19 social distancing and non-essential travel has proven to be a ‘highly successful initiative’. Over the past two months, the UK’s largest food and farming scheme has seen 6,300 members complete remote assessments on farm, including more than 500 pig producers.
Members have been offered the opportunity to opt for either an offline pre-assessment of documentation, followed by a partial assessment using live-streaming technologies to provide a real-time visual inspection of the farm. Or, alternatively have the entire assessment-reviewing paperwork and documents, alongside a visual inspection streamed live with an assessor.
Mr Moseley said: “With more than 6,000 remote assessments already completed since we began the roll out, and thousands more in the pipeline, we are delighted how quickly and well this new protocol has been received by members.
“Increasingly our farmers are recognising the benefits of remote assessments. Not only as a viable solution for now, but as a real asset for the future- helping to overcome some of the geographic and biosecurity challenges they often face.”
Remote assessments have been made possible, largely due to the development of a unique online portal, which works as a ‘confidential online filing cabinet’. Members can upload and store all necessary documents required to demonstrate compliance to Red Tractor standards. Red Tractor said it was a secure and safe way for members to upload and review documents relating to their assessment and has been designed for all Red Tractor farm scheme and transport members to use.
Assessors can then review the documents ahead of the assessment to save members time. For farmers who struggle with mobile connectivity, the online portal allows them to upload documents beforehand at a time that suits them.
With more than 2,000 members already utilising the Red Tractor Portal and nine out of 10 farmers finding it ‘a helpful and easy to use resource’, according to Red Tractor, it is expecting that most members will opt to use it for the paper-based reporting element of assessments.
QMS physical assessments
From June 28, QMS has resumed to physical assessments where a remote assessment is not possible and in priority cases, including a high-risk member, an overdue assessment, new applicants or in response to complaint or concern.
Where possible, members will be requested to submit their documents to a portal or direct to the assessors for review prior to any physical visit. A COVID-19 risk assessment will be conducted prior to every assessment and strict protocols will be followed during by all assessors, including wearing of PPE and adherence to physical distancing rules.