A PROMINENT Cumbrian farm leader is urging farmers to respond to a new consultation on how Red Tractor farm standards should evolve.

Alistair Mackintosh, farmer and the Chairman of Red Tractor's Beef & Lamb standards says the leading farm assurance body is seeking input from across the industry.

The two-month consultation, which opened this week, will focus on three ‘headline changes’, which are based on worker welfare, environmental protection and moving the scheme towards outcome-based standards for animal welfare.

"Standards are important, not just for the domestic market, but for new customers abroad," said Mr Mackintosh, who farms at Ravenglass in west Cumbria.

He added that at a time of ever-increasing scrutiny, preserving the public's trust in UK agriculture and the Red Tractor logo has never been more important.

This was echoed by Red Tractor CEO, Jim Moseley, who said: "Red Tractor is recognised as a symbol of British food quality but to maintain this, our standards must continue to evolve with the times, to ensure they address changes in legislation, industry practice and reflect the emerging issues on shoppers’ minds."

On animal welfare, Red Tractor is planning a shift to more outcome scoring in dairy, and intends to make outcomes a ‘much more core part’ of future standards.

New environmental protection standards will also adapt legal requirements on reducing soil erosion and nutrient run-off into measures which can be easily assessed on farm.

The proposals have been developed over 12 months.

At every step of the process, representatives from across the food chain – farming organisations, farmers, vets, processors and retailers – have been fully involved in drawing up the amendments.

Mr Moseley reviewed the latest science and evidence, as well as benchmarked the scheme against competitors and industry best practice.

The three-stage process of committee, consultation and consensus, adheres to gold standard recommendations of the British Standards Institute.

Mr Moseley said: “We are a proven world leader in food chain assurance, but we cannot rest on our laurels.These proposals strive to strike a delicate balance which protects and promotes our members, reassures consumers and customers, while acknowledges the implications of the challenges that the industry faces with future trade deals and the agricultural transition plan."

The consultation and review closes on March 5, with final standards aiming to be published in June or July, and inspections beginning on November 1.