The Red Tractor Assurance Scheme aims to guarantee good food standards. Unfortunately, recent analysis has shown that they are also more likely to pollute the environment than those not in the scheme.
Nearly half of the 100,000 farms in the UK are part of the scheme, and the voiceover promises that the red tractor scheme is a sign that the farm is “farmed with care”.
I think that many consumers would disagree with this, given this latest information.
The Environmental Agency is responsible for governmental environmental inspections, and a response to a freedom of information request highlighted this problem. I would like to know why it took an extra request, and why the Environmental Agency had not noticed this trend and made it public.
Farms are the biggest pollution source for rivers at the moment, both with pesticide runoff, and cow manure runoff both causing significant problems.
Red tractor farms were responsible for 62% of the most serious agricultural pollution incidents between 2014-2019. While this does not sound horrific, it suggests that serious agricultural pollution was almost twice as likely on red tractor farms.
Unfortunately, this impacts farms across the board, from livestock farming, poultry and crops.
If the red tractor label becomes synonymous with pollution, it could rapidly disappear. It has also been argued that until this issue is resolved for red tractor farms, they should be assessed more regularly than those not a member. Apparently only about 1 in 1000 red tractor inspections were done without warning – making this something like 1 in 2 may well deal with this problem very fast.
Indeed river action is actually considering court action for the misleading that this label has done.