Red Tractor UK has recently launched its new farm assurance scheme standards, which are taking effect from 1st October 2017. Evie Price, from CXCS, here to give you the low down on the major changes you’ll need to comply with before your next audit.
With the recent launch of Red Tractor UK’s updated farm assurance standards, we’re taking a closer look at what it means for some of the sectors within UK agriculture. All 6 schemes have had their scheme standards updated to include additional requirements for paperwork and certain farming practices, with the changes taking effect from 1st October 2017.
The viability for a business is usually the topic of discussion when Farm Assurance is mentioned; when looking into becoming farm assured, many farmers ask ‘what are the benefits for me and my business?’ Financially the benefits aren’t always clear cut. You must pay to be a member, and whether your produce/livestock actually fetch a higher price than non-assured produce, can often be dependent on other factors. However, now that the average consumer is becoming more interested in where their food comes from, the industry can begin to see the benefit of using their Red Tractor membership to assure the consumer that their produce is 100% British, and at the high quality they expect. Without this, there is no real way of advertising that produce such as British meats, have been raised to some of the highest welfare standards, not just in Europe, but in the world.
This pressure from consumers is just one reason why Red Tractor UK have tightened up on their standards; the organisation has also faced criticism from other groups as well as the media, stating that their standards are the lowest of all assurance schemes in the UK (compared with the likes of RSPCA Freedom Foods). Red Tractor assured farmers have been able to use their membership certificate as proof of competence for buying and using rat bait for industrial use, however this requirement (under VC.b) has now been brought in line with Think Wildlife’s Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use. This means that Red Tractor assured members will now have to complete a site survey, environmental risk assessment, bait plan (kept for 2 years), and a COSHH assessment if there are 5 or more employees. This is double the record keeping requirements compared to the current standards booklet (October 2014 version), and introduces more Health & Safety in to the mix, which some may feel is long overdue.
Additional to this, schemes will see changes from biosecurity and medicine usage, through to effluent containment and silage pit structures. This will bring it in line with, (and possibly above in some cases) regulations such as SSAFO, which are already statutory.
It is easy to take a look at the new standards, and begin to think you will be spending even more of your time in the farm office, but there are certain revisions to the standards which are just inclusions of documents that most farms should already have filed away. An example is a new entry in the Documents and Procedures section of the standards, (DP.a.2), which requires all members to have a farm map in place, showing buildings, watercourses and no spread margins. Sound familiar? That’s because it is very similar to the manure risk map all farms within an NVZ are required to keep as part of their cross compliance records. Similarly, looking at revisions to farming practices, items such as the storage of agrochemicals (AG.a), don’t really ask for farmers to do anything more than what they should be doing to meet cross compliance regulations.
Having said this, we recommend all farm assured members to take some time before their next audit to ensure they are falling in line with all applicable standards as displayed in the October 2017 booklet. All scheme standards booklets can be found on the Red Tractor website at www.redtractor.org.uk, if you haven’t already been sent a hard copy in the post.
If you would like any advice or help to complete your farm assurance records, (including COSHH assessments where applicable), CXCS will be more than happy to help. Visit www.cxcs.co.uk for more information or email email@example.com.