The chair of the Red Tractor quality assurance scheme, Christine Tacon, has written an open letter to farmers explaining the rationale behind a controversial new environmental module.

Tacon said retailers “made it very clear” that the need for the new Greener Farms Commitment (GFC) was “urgent”.

“There is a risk they will use alternative, possibly global standards, which will not differentiate British produce from overseas,” she said.

A major criticism of the plans for GFC has been the limited input from farmer representatives in the process.

“Involving farmers in the continued development of the GFC is absolutely essential,” Tacon responded in her letter.

She maintained the GFC will not be “a pass or fail standard” and it is expected that the module will align with government schemes which will help cover costs.

However, Tacon acknowledged that Red Tractor had made significant errors with how the GFC was announced.

“We clearly need to do a better job of explaining what’s intended and how this is different. We will work hard to achieve this,” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has been the latest farmer organisation to publicly criticise Red Tractor by calling for “a root and branch review” of the scheme.

“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,” said Kevin Harrison from the NSA.