Following the AIC Crop Marketing Sector’s campaign to phase out the long-established practice of buyer sampling of grain on-farm, major grain merchant businesses have stopped sending people to draw grain samples from farm stores.

The AIC said at the end of May that the use of temporary staff to take samples was a health and safety risk, while not being the most accurate or efficient way to obtain a sample. Rather, it believed industry developed guidance from the AHDB would ensure the drawing of representative samples by the grower. Glencore Agriculture says it adopted this policy in the UK over a decade ago.

Frontier Agriculture has confirmed that it is moving to a collection-only service for farm grain samples with immediate effect. “The sampling service we, and other, merchants have provided at harvest has predominantly been delivered by students on their summer break,” says its commercial director Nick Heald.

“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. Health and safety is Frontier’s number one priority. Therefore, in line with others in the industry and with AIC support, we are ceasing this practice.”

Openfield Agriculture has written to all its farmer members to let them know that from harvest 2020 it is supporting the wider industry move to a safer and more efficient method of grain sampling. “We have supported this move to help improve health and safety risks in our industry,” it says.

“Sending any third party onto a farm premises to work unsupervised and alone presents risk – in the event of an accident or injury, the business owner or farmer would be held responsible by the HSE for all breaches of health and safety on their premises,” continues a spokesman. “In addition, sampling grain in the current way is not the most efficient or accurate way to obtain a sample that is representative of the grain. 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 encourage greater farmer sampling, Openfield is offering discounted grain spears.

ADM Agriculture has already ceased on farm sampling “for reasons similar to other merchants. Despite our excellent track record of training and equipping our samplers to carry out efficient sampling in the past, this activity is a significant risk in many ways. Driving to farms and actually sampling on farm are large risk factors, which can only be managed to a certain extent.”

All three businesses will continue to provide sample bags and full AHDB and company guidelines for drawing representative samples and collect the samples for analysis. Test results will be available via company online customer portals.

“We’ve spoken to many of our farmer customers about this change that we and other merchants are making to improve safety and we’ve received positive feedback from them,” concludes Mr Heald. “We’re grateful for our farmer customers’ support with this and of course we will be happy to provide them with any help they need to adapt this harvest via our network of farm traders.”