The AIC is encouraging arable farmers to be responsible for taking their own grain samples and sending then to merchant laboratories for analysis.

It says the grain industry has been working for some time to improve the safety and accuracy of on-farm grain sampling and the way that samples are taken. The current practice whereby merchants send staff members or temporary summer students to farms to take samples for testing not only “presents numerous health and safety risks, but it is not the most efficient or accurate way to obtain a representative sample either,” notes the AIC.

The Confederation says farmer collection will also minimise any new health and safety risks in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But it adds that individual AIC members will have different approaches around the drawing and collection of samples, subject to their own internal health and safety policies and risk assessments.

“In advance of harvest it is especially timely for the AIC to help the farming industry be ready to adopt their own sampling,” says Mark Worrell, director of Openfield Agriculture and chair of the AIC Crop Marketing Sector. “Industry-developed guidance from the AHDB on grain sampling by the grower at store filling will become increasingly important.

“Several AIC members have long ceased sending samplers to farm due to safety concerns and this trend is expected to increase rapidly as we lead up to harvest 2020.”

Mr Worrall adds that grain merchants are keen to support growers and welcome discussion on managing this change. The AIC will be working hard to gain support from all sectors including the NFU.

Grain merchants have long been concerned at the cost of sampling and testing what is the sellers’ product, especially where more than one company may visit and analyse the same bulk. The mid 1990s saw proposals for a merchant charge for on-farm sampling, although these were never implemented.