2 April 1999

Verifiers aid registration quest

MOST farms visited by ACCS verifiers last year have completed the required modifications. Those that have not are expected to do so soon, says the schemes east region manager Robin Pirie.

"There is no such thing as failure. Our job is to help farms gain registration, not dictate what is done. Meeting our needs is about common sense and good agricultural practice. Visits often result in 20-30 points needing rectification. Most are minor omissions soon put right."

Grain producers are covered by the Food Safety Act, and there are few defences if anything goes wrong. One is due diligence, explains Mr Pirie. To prove it, adequate records must be produced.

So verifiers ask to see records of pesticide rate, application date, wind speed and direction, crop growth stage, and reason for treatment. There should be a record of fertiliser type and rate, and application date for each field.

The date sprayers and spreaders are calibrated and maintained must be available, even if only as a diary entry. Evidence that the operator has the relevant certificate of competence is also required.

Records are needed of rodent control measures, when stores are cleaned, type and application date of pesticide used on grain, and calibration details of temperature probes and moisture metres.

Stores must be thoroughly cleaned, and if they previously housed livestock they must be power washed. A check for insects should be made pre-harvest and insecticide used if necessary.

Stores must be bird-proof and rodent-free. Netting along eaves and around doors and windows should keep birds out.

Rodent droppings are poor indicators of likely contamination. Rats are incontinent, and for every dropping they urinate 40 times. Specialist pest controllers have access to chemicals not available to farmers and know where to place them. But using their services is not a scheme requirement.

"After spending a lot of money growing and harvesting a crop it needs looking after properly," says Mr Pirie. "Under the scheme it must be monitored regularly, and moisture metres and temperature probes must be available.

"An often forgotten hygiene aspect is the state of bucket loaders. Combines and grain trailers are usually cleaned out, but buckets can be missed. They may have handled fertiliser, cattle feed or manure so need cleaning before tackling grain."

A pesticide store must have impervious floors and walls, and a bund to prevent spillages leaking out. It should be locked and, unless the fire brigade has been informed of its location, have a warning sign

The most common reason for a verifier putting a cross on the assessment report is inadequate record keeping. Lights come a close second because protection of glass, a potential contaminant, is often overlooked. Windows are also frequently missed.

Other common reasons meriting a cross include lack of calibrated store monitoring equipment, and unlabelled grain. A simple note of variety and field of origin should be attached to each bulk lot.

Frequent omissions also include the MAFF codes of practice, HGCA handbook and LEAF guide.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about the schemes requirements. Sprayers do not need an MOT check, wind speed metres are not essential, and a store does not have to be dedicated to grain," says Mr Pirie.

ACCSVERIFICATION

&#8226 Due diligence theme.

&#8226 Record keeping.

&#8226 Store hygiene.

&#8226 Chemical safety & security.