After months of turmoil due to proposed new environmental rules, there is “an opportunity for a reset” within the Red Tractor quality assurance schemes, a report has found.

“The current situation is serious, and damaging for Red Tractor, but need not be fatal,” reads the independent report by consultancy firm Campbell Tickell.

The review into the governance of Red Tractor was commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in October 2023 after scheme participants reacted angrily to plans for a new environmental module.

The backlash mainly stemmed from a lack of consultation with farmers about the new “Greener Farms Commitment”, although the controversial plans have since been paused.

A second review into Red Tractor, which will look at role of quality assurance more broadly, is also due to take place, although its findings are not expected for a year or more.

The first report, which was published on Tuesday, has put forward a series of recommendations for improving the governance of Red Tractor.

This includes addressing relations with farmers “as a priority” through a stakeholder engagement campaign.

“Such an effort will need to start in evident listening mode, so that the engagement is widely perceived to be real,” the report reads.

Other recommendations include creation of “a board member code of conduct” and “a governance handbook” to address issues with a lack of clarity about the structure of Red Tractor.


The report acknowledges that the make-up of Red Tractor is “undoubtedly complex and weighty”. It is a limited company with an ownership body, a separate board of directors, then committees for each farming sector, as well as technical advisory committees.

“Its operation requires the participation of some 150 plus people, and some 15 significant governance entities,” the report reads.

NI representation

The consultants at Campbell Tickell also uncovered concerns surrounding representation from devolved regions of the UK, including NI.

While the ownership body has a representative from the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the board of directors has only one member to represent all UK farming unions.

“Whether the devolved landscape should be further or additionally reflected in Red Tractor’s governance is a question that should await the outcome of the second review,” the report states.