Merchants ditch on-farm grain sampling over safety concerns

Merchants are stopping sending grain samplers to farms because of safety concerns, pushing responsibility for drawing samples back to the grower and their staff.

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) announced in May that the long-running practice of sending students to farms to take samples presented a range of health and safety risks, and was not the most efficient or accurate way to test grain.

It said growers should be ready to adopt self-sampling, sending grain direct to merchants for testing at the laboratory.

See also: How to sample your grain 

Frontier Agriculture has confirmed that it is moving to a collection only service for farm grain sampling with immediate effect.

Commercial director Nick Heald said: “The sampling service we, and other merchants, have provided at harvest has predominantly been delivered by students on their summer break.

“Despite every possible precaution being taken there have been a number of minor incidents involving samplers.

“Thankfully, nothing serious but nevertheless it highlights the risks involved in sending a colleague into an unfamiliar farm store to sample grain.”

Frontier has said it will continue to organise collection of grain samples from customers, transferring them to laboratories for analysis.

All grain customers have been provided with a sampling pack containing AHDB and Frontier guidelines for sampling and a number of sample bags.

Greater efficiency

ADM Agriculture, which has also announced it is stopping the practice this year, said farmers were the best people to efficiently sample their own crops.

“This is not an attempt to cut the costs that we incur in sampling farmers’ crops, indeed most of our costs will be ongoing,” said a statement.

Farmers would be sent sample bags, pre-populated with their ADM Agriculture account number.

The bags would then be collected by a team of drivers that will be employed on a national basis so they can be tested in the laboratories.

“All of this will be at zero cost to farmers, other than the time required to carry out sampling and to fill in the sample bags.”

Liability issue

The farmer-owned cooperative Openfield has written to all its members explaining that moving to a collection-only service for samples should help to improve health and safety across the industry. 

While, to date, most accidents associated with third-party sampling had been relatively minor, it believed the risk of a more life-changing or life-limiting accident was significant enough to require a change to the process.

In the event of an accident or injury, as the business owner, the farmer would be held responsible by the HSE for all breaches of health and safety on their premises.

Although the primary driver for the change in approach was safety, there were other benefits for farmers who implement their own sampling process, it added.

“Sampling spears can reach only part way through a heap and the level of variability in a store can be under-reported.

“Farmer self-sampling, particularly carried out as grain comes off the combine or dryer, provides a more representative sample of all their grain.”

To support the development, Openfield is offering members a 24% discount on grain sampling spears.

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