21 November 1997

ACCS scheme has mixed reception at NFU roadshow

By John Allan

FARMERS at an NFU roadshow near Market Harborough, Leics, on Monday, gave the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme a mixed reception.

After hearing that there would be random verification visits, averaging every three years, one farmer complained: "We are paying, say, £200 a year for two years for virtually nothing. We have enough problem with a dairy inspection charge of £90 and now we have a charge and are not even being inspected."

But ACCS committee member Jonathan Tipples pointed out that the charge was to cover the scheme cost. The only alternative would be to charge £600 every three years, which would be even less acceptable.

He admitted the scheme would not lead to a premium price. But when another farmer suggested the quality of the crop would sell it whether it was assured or not, Mr Tipples said: "I suspect that your buyer would not agree with you."

Another asked what would happen if farmers united in refusing to join the scheme. "The scheme would collapse, but farm assurance would not go away," Mr Tipples said. Those at the meeting called for an EU-wide scheme so that any problems of mixing assured grain with imported cereals could be avoided. And, in the meantime, they suggested that merchants and other purchasers should have verification schemes to ensure consistency of standards.

Mr Tipples accepted there would be a mixing of grain in the first year before assured and non-assured crops could be fully segregated. Trade body UKASTA was working on an independently verified scheme for merchants, which should be in place by July 1998, he added.

Mixed farm question

Responding to questions about mixed farms, where some grain is home fed, Mr Tipples said the consensus of the ACCS representatives was that all grain on the farm should be stored to assured standards, unless the grain was on two separate farms with separate enterprises.

That would guard against badly stored, contaminated grain, intended for own use, being delivered to a merchant at the end of the season if it was not needed for stock feed. "This would bring assurance into disrepute," said Mr Tipples. &#42