27 February 1998

MONEY UP

FRONT EARNS ACCS SECURITY

First sign-up cheque in the

Assured Combinable Crops

Scheme came from a

Gloucestershire farm.

Andrew Blake asks why it

was sent and what needs

to be done to pass the

registration inspection

SWELL Buildings Farm, Lower Swell, Stow-on-the-Wold, is typical of many Cotswold arable units. What sets it apart is that Robert Campbell and son Hamish were first to put money up front to become ACCS registered.

Most of the cereals on their 400ha (1000 acres) of thin brash are aimed at premium earning markets – milling or added value wheat and malting barley. Becoming ACCS approved should help maximise potential outlets and may eventually have buyers knocking on their door more often, they reason. Their initial bill for two years is £350.

An unstinting approach to inputs, including extra foliar feeding and careful disease control, means they usually meet required quality standards, such as 11% protein in milling wheats. "But we cant afford to be left behind," says Robert.

Although fully in favour of the scheme he regrets its necessity. In reflecting pressure for better information on food quality, it also highlights public misunderstanding, he says.

"The idea that you can ever have totally safe food or that you can keep every mouse out of a grain store is ridiculous. However much farm assurance you have it is foolish to think there will never be problems. Assured isnt the same as guaranteed. There is always risk."

Many cases of food poisoning arise from poor kitchen hygiene or ignorance of the need for proper food care by supermarket customers, he believes.

Ideally the ACCS should be developed to provide a quality control service for registered farms, say the Campbells. By using verifiers from administrator Checkmate to collect samples and independent laboratories to test them, rejections and wasted lorry trips should be minimised, they argue.

"It would save the industry an enormous amount of money," says Robert. "It would be difficult to start with for millers to accept other peoples tests. But eventually they would be able to buy guaranteed quality as well as traceability. It is an opportunity that must not be lost."

ACCS manager Bill Young confirms the possibility of expanding the scheme in this way. "If we get a good uptake it is something which could be added on fairly quickly."

Bar minor modifications to the two grain stores and some increased monitoring and record keeping, the farm is well placed to gain the ACCS tag, Hamish believes.

"We are already doing most of the things we are being asked to do in the manual."

Main areas needing attention include making the 800t on-floor store bird- and rodent-proof. Recently converted from a silage clamp, there are obvious gaps between the concrete walls and the side cladding and beneath the sliding doors. Neither problem should prove difficult or expensive to solve.

Plastic covers for the fluorescent lighting in the old 675t bin storage building will be needed to avoid the risk of broken glass contaminating grain. But a bird-barrier in the shape of a door separating the bins from the intake pit and cleaning area is a positive feature missing on many other farms, notes Mr Young.

The on-floor store already has spotlights complying with ACCS needs. But erosion from silage effluent in the past means the concrete walls will need extra cleaning before harvest, he advises.

The Campbells employ a local professional contractor for rodent control and pre-harvest store treatment.

"Monitoring and recording in store is probably our weakest point at the moment," admits Hamish. A temperature probe and new log book to note stored grain condition and details of haulage lorries will be required. &#42

Glos farmers Robert Campbell and son Hamish were the first to sign up for the ACCS scheme. Maximising market opportunities was their main reason for joining. Now machinery records (below) and grain store management (left) are getting attention in the run up to assessment.

ACCSONFARMS

&#8226 Market maintenance policy.

&#8226 Many requirements in place.

&#8226 More record keeping needed.

&#8226 Minor buildings expenditure.

&#8226 Independent sampling service?