An industry-wide review into farm assurance schemes, including Red Tractor, is expected to continue until the end of 2024, lead commissioner Dr David Llewellyn has said.

Llewellyn, the former vice chancellor of Harper Adams University, will be working alongside three other commissioners to undertake the review. They are James Withers, ex-CEO of Scotland Food and Drink, Mark Suthern, the chair of Trustees of the Farming Community Network, and a fourth commissioner, yet to be appointed.

The review group was set up by the UK farming unions alongside the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), following a backlash from farmers when Red Tractor announced plans to introduce a new environmental module last autumn. A Greener Farms Commitment was due to commence from 1 April 2024, but the plan was scrapped.

The current review will look at good and bad practice in farm assurance schemes and how schemes can be made fit for the future.

“We want to ensure that we understand what works, and what doesn’t work, with assurance systems, so as to recommend ways in which the operating environment for the farming industry can be improved,” said Llewellyn.

The current review follows on from a separate piece of work commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union. Completed by consultants at Campbell Tickell, it looked at the structures within Red Tractor.

Published in February 2024, their report made a number of recommendations on how governance within Red Tractor can be improved.

Chair steps down

Meanwhile, the chair of Red Tractor, Christine Tacon, has agreed to step down from the role after having been successful in an appointment to the board of the Co-op supermarket chain.

In a statement, Tacon said she believed she could have fulfilled both roles without compromising either organisation, but was aware of the reservations some people might have about supermarket power within the food supply chain.

“I do not want to risk giving oxygen to those intent on criticising Red Tractor or for this to be the cause of any negative publicity,” she said.