5 June 1998

MISPLACED trust in subcontractors has left William and Jane Paton of Brixfield Farm, near Banbury, Oxon with additional non-compliances and unexpected expense after their recent ACCS verification visit.

Mr and Mrs Paton farm 178ha (440 acres), growing a range of wheats, seed peas on contract and oilseed rape. Grain is stored in bulk on floor and since moving to the farm four years ago extensive building improvements have been carried out.

"We have gradually rewired all the stores, stripped out and replaced wooden panels where necessary, hung new doors at entrances and put up a new barn with concrete floor," explains Mr Paton. The buildings were unlikely to have satisfied ACCS requirements in their original state, he says.

On the day, verifier Mike Judge worked methodically through an itemised set of questions.

Subject to correcting a number of minor non-compliances the Patons achieved verification. While pleased and relieved the inspection was over, the Patons were disappointed with some non-compliances. The introduction of a new computer program, together with standardised record formats supplied by ACCS, should satisfy any record-keeping omissions. And bird-proofing of the new shed is already in hand.

"But I am surprised about the need for halogen light coverings. My understanding was that all new fittings in and around the sheds met necessary safety standards," says Mr Paton.

Furthermore, their BASIS qualified agronomist had failed to record the cause for pesticide application recommendations on several occasions.

Such experiences highlight the impact contractors can have, says scheme manager, Bill Young. "What is particularly worrying is the number of agronomists, sprayer contractors and machinery rings which fail to meet scheme and legal requirements for record-keeping." &#42

Poor advice means additional expense

NON-COMPLIANCE

&#8226 Record-keeping:

Fertiliser spreader maintenance; trailer cleaning; loader shovel cleaning; use of insect traps; grain condition, bird activity (weekly); cause for pesticide recommendations.

&#8226 Grain store/yard:

Shatterproof glass required in loading area and store lights; bird-proofing in new store.

Building a picture of the farm

ACCS verifier Mike Judge is keen to allay farmer fears that the verification process allows scope to place greater emphasis on different areas of the scheme according to personal bias.

"When it comes to the verification visit I have a definitive protocol to work through," says Mr Judge, who has over 30 years of farm and grain store management experience. "My task is to ask the questions listed and complete the booklet."

But it is also important to build a picture of the farm for the committee that ultimately grades the farm, explains Mr Young. "For this reason, if I feel something in wrong in my own mind, I can record additional comments," Mr Judge explains.

Grain store lighting failed to meet verifier Mike Judges approval, much to the annoyance of onlooker William Paton, who was told it would comply when the store was upgraded.