A group of farmers have suggested solutions to ‘double standards’ which make it easier for grain importers to access UK feed mills than domestic food producers.
The group, coordinated by East Yorkshire farmer Stephen Ridsdale, said it had not received a logical explanation from the Confederation of Agricultural Industries (AIC) or Red Tractor (RT) why they cannot have the same methods of insuring grain that are offered to imports. .
They are asking that a pesticide declaration box be added to the grain passport to confirm that UK grains are safe.
See also: British producers dismayed by ‘double standards’ of feed mills
The AIC allows imports of cereals through pesticide residue testing or a pesticide declaration to confirm that the cereals have been grown using only pesticides licensed from the EU.
This contrasts with AIC’s requirement that in order to access UFAS (Universal Feed Assurance Scheme) feed mills, UK producers must adhere to farm-level insurance protocols, such as Red Tractor or Scottish Quality Crops. .
“Nothing should prevent the existence of the UK grain pesticide declaration zone, to create two voluntary standards working in tandem to serve different aspects of the market,” said Mr Ridsdale.
“Some producers only produce feed grains, and they should have access to feed markets through the same methods as imports, and not be forced to have the added burden of insurance at the operating level of programs. such as RT.
“It’s crazy that it is more difficult for UK producers to access their own markets compared to imports.”
Mr Ridsdale noted that national laws require sprayer operators to hold certificates of competence to apply pesticides, and that spraying operations must be undertaken with sprayers tested by the National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS). Local authorities also check the compliance of farms with grain drying and storage rules, and they are also free to inspect pesticide records.
“This is a government-accepted risk-based system to ensure that pesticide levels in grains are within food safe limits. It works and eliminates the need to regularly test for pesticide residues, in exactly the same way that RT grain does not need to be tested for residues.
Traders licensed by AIC under the Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC) are encouraged to visit on-farm grain stores at any time to check hygiene procedures, inspect machinery and fields.
However, AIC does not require on-farm controls of imported feed grains, which are often mixed with domestic grains and used to feed RT-certified livestock.
“Presumably, AIC and RT are satisfied that the imported combinable crops fed to RT-insured livestock are in no way toxic, harmful or a food safety concern to our farmed livestock or the end consumer.” Mr. Ridsdale said.
“If imported crops are safe, there is absolutely no reason why UK grains cannot be sourced by the same methods as imports.”
Tenant farmer Robbie Dean, who operates 280 ha on the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border, said it was “ridiculous” that farmers have to pay to access their own markets.
“I’m more of a small sharecropper. I can’t afford these cereal recordings, ”he said. “No one cares more than I do about keeping rats out of grain stores.
“Red Tractor doesn’t materially alter everything I do. Any grain grown in this country is safe anyway – everything is tested on admission. “
“Pay a premium”
Ian Bennett, who operates 300 ha in Prescott, Merseyside, said: “I think a self-declaration form is really all we need, so our standards are always higher than imports.
“Most of the areas where Red Tractor testing is legally required, so there is no need for independent testing as we cannot buy illegal chemicals. “
But he added: “I’m not against Red Tractor having a place, if the consumer wants it and is willing to pay a premium.”
Red tractor and AIC review in progress
Red Tractor said the topic of a two-tier system had been raised at its crop sector council.
While some producer representatives expressed concerns about adopting such a system due to the increased complexity, it was agreed that the topic required further analysis.
A spokesperson for Red Tractor said an industry task force, chaired by NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw and comprising Red Tractor and the AHDB, had been formed to establish the facts on the standards and the conformity of imported cereals.
“Once this work is completed, the results will be fed back to Red Tractor, so that an informed decision can be made. “
The Confederation of Agricultural Industries (AIC) says the UK feed industry relies heavily on UK-grown grain and other feed materials to produce safe and traceable feed for pastoralists British.
However, when UK grain supplies are hit by adverse weather conditions, such as the 2020 harvest, the feed industry has to source grain from overseas.
The feed companies then buy the imported grain through a controller or inspector, and ensure that the products are safe to use and comply with insurance requirements and relevant legislation.