RED TRACTOR has outlined plans for a new environmental module that farmers can elect to add to their membership to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.
The Greener Farms Commitment will be made available to Red Tractor farmer members from 1 April 2024 and aims to produce a consistent standard across agriculture for sustainability.
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Red Tractor said it developed the module as retailers, restaurants, and other food brands increasingly required primary produce sourced from increasingly sustainable supply chains.
It said this requirement could lead to multiple audit demands – particularly on farmers.
The Greener Farms Commitment is an attempt to create a “single consistent industry approach”, Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley said.
Red Tractor said in developing the module, it had secured an “unprecedented level of support” – including from all members of the British Retail Consortium.
“This has involved interviewing every major retailer, OOH operator and many leading brands; ensuring alignment with DEFRA’s Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI); meeting the aims of critical organisations such as WWF and WRAP; whilst also conducting cost versus benefit research through the Andersons Centre; and trials with 25 farms,” the assurance scheme said in a statement.
The module will be voluntary and will involve farmers tracking their own progress across the following five areas of environmentally focused farming:
- Carbon footprinting
- Soil management
- Nutrient management
- Waste management
The module will be open to certified members and will be administered by Red Tractor directly, as opposed to certification bodies. It will also be administered differently.
“Unlike core standards, the GFC does not require the same thing at every farm, but instead requires farmers to register a plan for progress that is unique to their circumstances, and then measure their success and learning against that,” a briefing note about the measure said.
Mr Moseley said: “The initiative takes a new approach which will offer benefits to everyone.
“It gives Red Tractor farmers a new way of differentiating their product and a consistent framework to talk about their environmental credentials.
“The GFC is designed to protect farmers from future audit demands, costs and complexity. While some farmers may not be facing these questions from their customers yet, there is clear evidence from some agricultural sectors that alternative schemes have added cost, duplication and complexity for Red Tractor farmers.”
Andrew Opie from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: “Retailers are under increasing pressure to disclose how their sourcing policies promote positive management of soil, water and biodiversity both to consumers and investors.
“The new Red Tractor Greener Farms Commitment optional module offers the opportunity for farmers to deliver that assurance in a consistent, efficient scheme.”
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