Food and farming standards have been a battleground for unions and politicians for decades, with the emergence of Brexit and Britain’s future place in the world only intensifying the debate.
It is an issue which the industry is passionate about, and the concession by Trade Secretary Liz Truss on the statutory footing of the Trade and Agriculture Commission is a major win for farming.
The issue of production standards and farming’s ability to articulate their importance, however, continues to be one that vexes the industry on many levels.
While we rightly extol the high welfare values of British agriculture, the actual process of vetting those standards is one that divides opinion.
As chief reporter Abi Kay’s in-depth analysis of Red Tractor shows this week, farmers and industry leaders are split on what the scope and scale of farm assurance should be, with some voicing concerns as to whether it serves any competitive advantage, or if mounting levels of bureaucracy are necessary. Red Tractor often finds itself in the firing line, with some farmers asking whether it is still relevant or what the relationship is between it and the retailers.
But there is a challenge for agriculture and that comes in the form of the consumer. Not only did the debate about future trade deals spark alarm within the farming community about its standards potentially being undercut, but it also rallied support from the public on the issue too.
And with consumers demanding more and more reassurance that the food they buy is produced to certain standards, how we measure and therefore prove those standards is going to be a key part of the food and farming marketing journey in future.
While many would agree there needs to be baseline farm assurance standards underpinning British produce, the challenge for Red Tractor could be how it handles that dual role of baseline arbiter and promoter of a recognisable brand beyond the farm gate. Or does it, as some suggest, choose one over the other longer term?