Assurance hiccup halts on-farm biodiesel plans

Farmers processing oilseed rape into biodiesel are facing a crippling farm assurance fee just to find an outlet for the rapemeal by product.

David Perrin of Oath Farm, Burrowbridge, Somerset, recently invested £40,000 in an on-farm bio-diesel plant, capable of processing up to 400 litres/hr.

However, having complied with all the government requirements for production of biodiesel, he found local mills could not take the 750t of meal a year because the plant was not covered under the ACCS or FABBL assurance schemes.

Instead, Mr Perrin would have to join one of the trade assurance schemes run by the Agricultural Industries Confederation, at an initial cost of £6000.

“We’ve conquered all the government regulations, and I just can’t believe that it’s the agricultural side which has stopped us from proceeding with this.

Biofuels are being hailed as the saviour of British farming, but no one tells you that in practise they are being blocked by the assurance schemes.”

Guy Gagen, chief arable adviser at the NFU, agreed that requiring farmers to have full AIC accreditation to sell rapemeal on a small to medium scale was overkill, and said that the NFU was in discussion with the farm assurance bodies to seek a less onerous route to market.

Simon Williams, technical manager at the AIC, said the main aim of assurance is to make food safe.

“But we are trying to find a solution here that will suit everybody – we will know within weeks whether a new scheme is feasible.”