contractors harvesting in field© Tim Scrivener

A new scheme offered by the NAAC aims to help contractors keep on top of legal requirements and compliance issues, which could set their business apart when it comes to landing a competitive contract.

The NAAC has launched a new Assured Land-Based Contractor Scheme (ALBC) designed to provide a review of the business and help contractors improve their record-keeping.

The new scheme was developed after a successful Defra funding bid in 2006 and provides those involved with a credible tool to audit their business. It covers insurance, staff, health and safety, machinery and complaints procedures, and there’s an additional module covering the technical aspects of the specific operation.

See also: NAAC farm contractor charges 2015-16

The idea is to make sure that the contracting business has all the necessary paperwork and protocols in place, particularly as traceability becomes a more important part of agricultural production.

However, the NAAC stresses that it’s not just for the elite – it can also help smaller businesses ensure they are providing a reliable and quality service.

For many contractors it just means getting to grips with legal requirements, particularly in terms of paperwork and record-keeping. Lincolnshire contractor Tim Russon, who farms 126ha of arable land, knows this first hand.

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Mr Russon has expanded his contracting business beyond recognition in the past 10 years. He now harvests over 6,000ha of crop each year and employs eight full-time staff, and saw the ALBC Scheme as a tool to set himself apart from his competition.

“When we did our first audit in 2010 it was challenging and I had to learn new skills and ways of working. Record-keeping had to increase and there was some initial resistance from staff. However, now it’s the norm and without doubt it has been beneficial.”

While he’s not yet regularly asked for his ALBC status, it has been a valuable marketing asset and has made getting some contracts simpler by providing his ALBC number instead of having to supply heaps of paperwork.

Staying on top of compliance

There will be operators who have sleepless nights worrying about legal compliance and “what ifs”. The ALBC audit will raise any non-compliances and will highlight where new procedures or business practices may be needed.

The NAAC can then offer support and assistance to ensure that systems can be put in place – easily and with minimal hassle.

Jeremy Russell-Lowe, director of Surrey-based contracting company Foramaflow, is also a convert to the ALBC scheme. Running an arable operation of 90ha means the business is already ISO certified and the ALBC scheme was a logical next step.

“We wanted to show our customers we are a professional, high-quality, compliant company. The audit process has been highly beneficial, a good refresher and a great opportunity to look at what we are doing. It is useful to have an external set of eyes to look at your business and just back-up that you are doing everything right.“

For more information head to the NAAC website www.naac.co.uk

CIPC success

The CIPC application scheme was set up in 2011 following concerns about the application of chlorpropham (CIPC) as a sprout suppressant on stored potatoes.

This independently audited scheme has raised standards and provided customers with genuine assurances about the quality of service, safety and traceability of the operation.

It ensures that the product is only applied by professional and qualified operators under strictly controlled conditions. All UK contractors applying CIPC should be members of the scheme and an increasing number of self-applicators are joining.