16 November 2001

Be prepared for revisits from the scheme verifier

Second and subsequent visits

from your quality assurance

verifier are not just a quick

glance to check things are

still being done properly. Our

latest baseline advice article

takes a closer look

EXPECT the same attention to detail and rigorous questioning from a second verification visit as your first, says Robin Pirie, crops director with ACCS.

"It is a full assessment, whether you are a newcomer or have been in the scheme for a while, so a second visit is just as important as the initial assessment.

"The aim of these visits is to maintain standards. Assured grain is here to stay, so growers should be used to the procedures and know where they are likely to encounter problems. It will not be a quick check or a foregone conclusion."

It is now necessary for every farm to be visited every year, so ACCSs membership of about 12,700 will all need visiting before harvest 2002.

"Well over 60% of our membership has already renewed," says Mr Pirie. "Assurance is recognised as being vital to marketing, so growers are making every effort to ensure they can get into the scheme."

Problem areas

Record-keeping is the area most likely to cause problems and is the single biggest reason for non-conformance, admits Mr Pirie. "It is an essential part of the scheme and yet one which growers have been slow to put right. Hygiene records are a particular weakness."

Most buildings are now up to scratch and are likely to conform. "Lights are mostly protected and bird and rodent access has been restricted as far as possible."

But grain monitoring is a potential pitfall. "Do not just put the grain into store and forget about it. The money is not guaranteed until it has been accepted by the buyers. And we get to hear of any rejections."

Mr Pirie reminds growers to check temperature and moisture regularly. "We are looking for evidence that it has been inspected weekly until it is stable."

Once grain is stable, fortnightly or monthly records are acceptable. "It has been very warm this autumn and insects have been a problem in grain stores, so growers must be on top of this. Remember, it costs £300-£400 for the rejection of just one load."

Any signs of rodents or birds must also be recorded. "Growers who are in the habit of checking grain stores must ensure they are recording this. There are more failures for this reason than any other."

New requirements

There are two new requirements for assured grain for harvest 2002. "Growers must have pitfall traps in any stored grain. We will then need to see evidence that the traps are being inspected and catches recorded."

The other change is where farmyard manure has been used. "Where livestock have been in sheds, even if it was only for a very short time, they must have been sanitised.

"The same applies to buckets and tractors. This has been in response to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, so it is a sensible precaution."

Time and costs

For an average size farm, a verification visit will usually take one to two hours. "Farmers are more familiar with what is required, so the time has come down a bit," says Mr Pirie.

Costs have also fallen. "We always said it would become cheaper, and it has. Its very good value and is less than a single rejection."

For units of up to 80ha, the cost is £105. Between 81-200ha, the price is £120, 201-400ha costs £150 and over 400ha is £170. "There is a £40 charge for any additional enterprises, so beef and sheep units can be done at the same time."

Genesis

An annual visit has always been part of the verification procedure with Genesis, says the companys Jane Johnson. "Growers still need to comply in all areas, so its immaterial whether it is a first or second visit. Obviously there will be particular attention paid to areas where there was still work to be done last time." &#42

Assurance standards are on the up, so do not drop your guard before a verification revisit. Scheme rules now require routine use of pitfall traps from harvest 2002 (above), full sanitisation of buildings after livestock use and annual revisits.

CROPASSURANCE

1 Renewals Assessment procedure is just as rigorous as initial assessment.

2 Annual visit Every farm will now be visited annually, so expect an assessment before harvest 2002.

3 Record-keeping Still a major weakness.

4 Grain stores Keep weekly records until grain is stable, then extend to fortnightly or monthly.

5 Rejections Cost growers £300-£400/load.

6 Pitfall traps A new requirement for stored grain for 2002.

7 FYM All buildings containing livestock must be sanitised before grain is stored.

8 Time Average length of visit is 1-2 hours.

9 Costs Have fallen, maximum payable now £175.

10 Other enterprises Can be assessed at same time for extra £40.