Red Tractor is not universally liked by farmers and some will support Norman Bagley’s decision to withdraw the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) from the beef and lamb board of Assured Food Standards (AFS).
Farmers Guardian understands changes to the terms of reference of the AFS board have prompted some discontent among members.
With the length of time a board representative can now serve limited to a maximum of three two-year stints, it makes life difficult for bodies such as AIMS if there is no-one from within the organisation to replace the likes of Norman Bagley.
There is also the fact his members, many of whom supply butchers, farm shops or restaurants, may not see the value of the Red Tractor logo in the same way big retailers do.
While AIMS’ withdrawal will be far from fatal for Red Tractor, it comes at an interesting time, as the body seeks to define itself in a changing retail and consumer landscape, as the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee chairman Neil Parish alludes to in our front page story.
Sainsbury’s already declines to use the Red Tractor logo on its products. If the merger with Asda goes ahead and the Sainsbury’s approach is adopted across the company, could the retail behemoth deal another blow to the visibility of the logo and, if so, what would it do for the future of the assurance brand?
No-one can deny we need baseline assurance standards which give consumers confidence the food they eat is reared and grown to exacting standards. It also makes life for those in the supply chain, such as livestock marts, much simpler, as different retailers are able to use Red Tractor standards as a baseline for their buyers, rather than creating a convoluted mess in which each have individual standards and metrics of their own.
The challenge for Red Tractor will be if it wants to remain as the arbiter of such standards, it will have to manoeuvre with dexterity and diplomacy in the coming years.
And finally, is the Green Belt under attack, or does it create financial opportunities for farmers?