8 June 2001

Costs of crop assurance all set to tumble at last

By Andrew Swallow

CROP assurance costs are to tumble with the introduction of further competition into the market for on-farm combinable crop verification.

FABBL, the Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb division of Assured British Meats, has been licensed to verify that farms meet ACCS standards from July 1.

It will offer ACCS verification alone to all-arable farms, and alone or in addition to FABBL verification on mixed farms, introducing direct competition to current verifier UKFQC for the first time.

The long-awaited move ends UKFQCs three-year monopoly on ACCS verification. With it will go the UKFQC name, parent company Checkmate International now offering verification services as CMi certification, says crops director Robin Pirie.

In a back-to-back arrangement, CMi will offer verification of beef and lamb enterprises to FABBL standards, ending the need for separate visits to verify livestock and arable enterprises.

Exact charges have yet to be announced, but FABBL chief executive Philippa Wiltshire says growers can expect considerable savings. Those will be greatest for farms seeking beef or lamb assurance and combinable crop cover. But even on larger all-arable farms growers can expect lower charges.

"Our charges will be cheaper than the current high £200 to £300 range," she says. "Members can expect the same level of service from FABBL regardless of whether they have livestock on the farm or not."

More ACCS verification licences could follow, says ACCS secretary Liz Kerrigan. A licence has already been offered to the Genesis scheme operators, says ACCS chairman, Tony Pexton.

NFU chief arable adviser, Paul Ibbott, welcomes the change. "The competition should be good for farmers, but we wouldnt want to see any slipping in standards."

The ACCS board has taken steps to ensure standards are maintained by applying for the scheme to be approved by the UK Accreditation Service.

A full review of ACCS protocols is also planned in time for harvest 2002, with a change to annual verification of ACCS farms already approved at board level.

CMi can now offer a single integrated verification package including FABBL, ACCS, the Assured Produce Scheme for fresh produce including potatoes and the Assured Chicken Production Scheme, notes Mr Pirie. &#42

ACCSCHANGES

&#8226 New verification licenses.

&#8226 Introduces competition.

&#8226 Charges expected to fall.

&#8226 Single standard maintained.

Harvest 2001 cover

FABBL says it will be assessing farms for ACCS certification from July 1 – in time to assure grain from harvest 2001. However, that will come too late for current ACCS members to take advantage of the lower rates promised. Most members paid for this years crops in October, says UKFQCs Robin Pirie. Current ACCS membership stands at 11,500 farms, or 2.083m ha of crops, including 1.155m ha of wheat and 395,000ha of barley. But those figures were submitted before the worst of the winter weather, admits Mr Pirie. At the same time last year 9382 farms and 1.8m ha were in ACCS.