ACCS take up slow to start, but…
ASSURED Combinable Crops Scheme organisers remain confident of good uptake by arable producers, despite having just three farms signed up by the start of this week.
Scheme manager Bill Young of UK Food Quality Certification remains confident that the NFUs original aim of 4000 members by the end of February will be met.
About 7000 information packs have been sent out since the ACCS was announced at Cereals 97, says Mr Young. "That will be nearer 8000 within the next couple of weeks. We have had a very positive response."
Despite doubts expressed at autumn road shows and elsewhere, the 4000 target should easily be achieved, he maintains. "I havent yet spoken to anyone who has bought the manual and who says they wont join. I am going for 5000 by the end of February and 10,000 by the end of the year."
Gloucestershire farmer Hamish Campbells cheque (of £350 for two years registration) was first to arrive at the UKFQC offices.
Growing pressure from buyers and the public to know more about the origins of food is the main reason for joining, says Mr Campbell, who farms about 400ha (1000 acres) of arable at Swell Buildings Farm, Lower Swell, Stowe-on-the-Wold.
"The sooner we got signed up the better, otherwise we could have been left behind. If we can get better markets from doing a bit extra it cant do any harm."
Minor tweaks to the grain store may be needed to meet ACCS requirements, he admits. "We will probably have to make it a bit more bird-proof and black out some skylights." But most other requirements are already in place, he believes.
Farm assessments are due to start on Mar 1. Initially these will be made by 66 inspectors who will receive two days training at Shuttleworth College. A further 40 will be taken on later in the year, he says. "They will be farmer friendly – not pinstriped traffic wardens."
• The scheme is going ahead despite a legal challenge from the Federation of Small Businesses which may necessitate a slight name change, says Mr Young.
Three regional managers have been appointed to promote the concept and maintain uniform standards.