5 June 1998

Verification OK, but big bill

On-farm verification of the

Assured Combinable Crops

Scheme in England and Wales

could reveal shortcomings in

the professionals you use and cost you more than you

thought. Charles Abel and

Amanda Dunn report

farmers weeklys Easton Lodge farm has passed the verification process of the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme with flying colours, but at a cost.

Total spend on the 248ha (612-acre) unit at Stamford, Lincs topped £900, plus £300 for registration, says farm manager, John Lambkin.

"Fortunately we were the first farm to be passed first time by the verifier and we are now registered for two harvests. But it has taken time and money."

Biggest cost was meeting the freedom from glass requirement in the grain store. Replacing four 500W uncovered glass floodlights with six new 300W guarded lamps was the main need. Together with plastic sleeves and new fluorescent tubes for the strip lights that left an electricians bill of £447.

Better grain store monitoring then demanded a £175 temperature probe, £86 worth of insect monitoring bait bags and £45 of pitfall traps. A clipboard in the store to record weekly checks and clear labelling of grain bins was also demanded by verifier Ian Cock.

"We also had to sort out records, get MAFF Codes of Practice for protecting water, soil and air and find information like the BASIS and FACTS registration numbers for our field walkers and the phone number of the local beekeepers liaison officer. It is not a problem, but it takes time," says Mr Lambkin.

Perhaps the two biggest surprises were wind speed assessments for spraying and servicing the burner on the grain drier. "It was not enough to say we judge wind speed by looking at the leaves on the trees. We were advised to get a wind speed meter.

"And although we service the diesel burner ourselves, the risk of polluting the grain and atmosphere means we should get a professional to do it in future. I am surprised by that. Frankly we never let it smoke, it only means extra work for us to clean soot out of the drier."

Last, grain samples now need keeping from every lorry that leaves the farm, for at least three months after payment.

Mr Lambkin was impressed by the thoroughness of the morning-long inspection. "We knew we had one or two sloppy areas we needed to tighten up on and Ian really went through everything in detail. Some of the things we have done are not strictly necessary for ACCS verification, but it seemed like a good chance to get everything in order.

"We need to remember we are producing food and perhaps we should be more considerate about how we handle, store and monitor it. If hygiene and traceability are important to buyers then we must do it."

Assurance costs (£)

Registration 300

New floodlights and plastic

covers for strip lights 447

Temperature probe 175

Insect traps for store 131

Moisture meter test 30

Other costs inc sprayer MOT 155

Total cost 1,238

Chuffed to have passed first time, but sweating over the £1238 bill, John Lambkin admits food safety is an issue that just cant be ducked.