The National Sheep Association (NSA) said it considers the latest actions of Red Tractor to have sideswiped the sheep farming sector once again following the announcement of its Greener Farms Commitment last week.
NSA said it is deeply concerned none of the detail of the Commitment has been discussed with those directly impacted and following an extraordinary meeting of the NSA English Committee earlier this week is calling for a root and branch review of the assurance scheme and its governance.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “NSA continues to support the concept of farm assurance as an open gate declaration of good practice. But we have long been frustrated that the scheme is losing its way and has become less relevant to sheep farmers with little acceptance of the unique nature of our sector.
“Most of the nation’s sheep farms are not big businesses with layers of management, but are family farms and single operators, many with little land of their own, and our sector still offers a valuable first step on the farming ladder for young new entrants. Becoming Red Tractor Assured presents a huge hurdle for many sheep farms, and for most of the sector’s routes to market it adds no value.”
NSA believes the Greener Farms Commitment takes Red Tractor into the realm of setting environmental policy in isolation rather than getting behind the key environmental and sustainable farming schemes being introduced by Defra.
Following the meeting of the NSA English Committee on Monday, chair Kevin Harrison said: “There is no doubt the feeling of the NSA English committee is one of a great deal of frustration and concern on how Red Tractor is forcing its vision of the Greener Farms Commitment through without proper consultation and without any understanding of the unique position sheep producers find themselves in.
“It is quite telling that those responsible for the governance of the assurance scheme felt the need to work on this behind closed doors without even consulting their boards or technical advisory committees.”