8 March 2002

Farmers get going for FACTS training

GROWING numbers of producers are becoming qualified under the Fertiliser Advisers Certification Training Scheme, rather than relying on using their merchants or advisers FACTS membership to satisfy farm assurance schemes.

One reason is that funding for farmer training is increasing, with the England Rural Development Plan offering 75% towards the cost, notes Fieldfare Associates consultant, Peter Hoey.

This means average farmer certificate cost is £125. But money is not the only motivation.

"Margins are tight and I want to learn how to make better use of organic fertiliser," says Mike Powley, who runs a 121ha (300-acre) mixed farm at Green Hammerton, near York.

"There is a lot of environmental legislation coming in and I need to make sure I comply with it, especially with three different streams and a river running through my land."

"If there is a future in farming, this is the way it is likely to go," says Doncaster producer, Robert Robinson. "I think FACTS will help if we are going to need a licence to farm."

A recent FACTS course reversed his thinking on NVZs.

"Now I know more about it, the legislation is not as bad as I thought, and I realise there are practical reasons for the way it has been designed."

For Tom Sanderson, who has a mixed farm near Thirsk, the course was an "eye opener".

"It has made me more aware of the guidelines and what I can and cant do. If we follow the codes of practice correctly, it may help ward off the introduction of even more mandatory rules." &#42