EA report from 2020 makes misleading comparison

The Times (03 April 2023) quotes an Environment Agency (‘EA’) report from 2020 that states ‘Red Tractor farms are more likely to pollute the environment’. This is inaccurate, misleading and a disservice to Red Tractor dairy farmers. The data in the report actually supports the opposite conclusion.

For example, the EA report does show that the sector with the largest volume of pollution incidents is Dairy. But the data in the report also shows that pollution incidents took place on 8% of Red Tractor Dairy farms, while there were incidents on 77% of non Red Tractor Dairy farms.

The EA report was published in 2020 and is based on data up to 2019. Back in 2021, we included a small number of its recommendations into the latest version of our farming standards. These set detailed environmental protection requirements for farmers and include requirements around slurry storage and use for example. Where we find issues on-farm that are at high-risk of causing a pollution incident, we report them to the EA as the relevant regulatory authority.

Reducing agricultural pollution is a difficult problem which requires action from across the industry, including Red Tractor and the Environment Agency among others.

That’s why Red Tractor recently became an engagement partner of the Courtauld Commitment 2030, which is an ambitious voluntary agreement that brings together organisations across the food system – from producer to consumer – to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable and includes a dedicated water target.

We continue to push for a data sharing arrangement on environmental protections with the EA, which may help to provide a more robust way of addressing pollution incidents on Red Tractor assured farms.

Red Tractor’s approach to protecting food safety through data sharing with enforcement bodies like the Food Standards Agency has been praised by the United Nation’s Codex Alimentarius.

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