Fertilizer Australia has identified eutrophication and the risk posed to food safety by contaminants in fertilizers (e.g. cadmium) as significant issues for the Australian industry. Fertilizer Australia’s strategic objectives are to manage liability and maintain involvement in public policy development. Both Fertilizer Australia and the Australian Fertiliser Services Association (AFSA) are making a significant commitment to managing the risks associated with its products through the national product stewardship program Fertcare.
Fertcare is a training, quality assurance, certification and accreditation program delivered by independent third parties on behalf of the fertilizer industry. Fertcare is designed to lift the skills and knowledge of everyone involved in the fertilizer supply chain. The program focuses on providing high quality advice to users of fertilizer to allow them to maximise productivity and minimise environmental and food safety risks.
The existing Fertcare courses are entirely consistent with the 4R’s and already cover the key information that underpins the concept. Given the increasingly global nature of the fertilizer industry and agriculture more broadly, the Fertcare Management Committee has recently decided to incorporate the 4R’s nutrient stewardship concept into the Fertcare training resources. Changing the language to explicitly include the 4R’s will make it possible to quickly identify that Fertcare is part of the international framework for fertilizer best management practices.
4Rs in Fertcare
The 4R terminology will be used in Fertilizer Australia communications and the Fertcare training material. Fertcare trains industry staff in the competencies required to meet their responsibilities for food safety and environmental risk management at three levels. It includes the competency to warn, advise and refer customers to information about fertilizer risks and how to manage them.
Fertcare Level A
Who should attend: Level A is suitable for people involved in the direct handling of fertilizers, particularly in relation to transport, storage, spreading and general rural merchandise roles who will benefit from material that is relatively simple to understand.
What is covered: The core module includes a basic understanding of fertilizer and soil ameliorant products including:
- physical identification;
- understanding labels;
- storage and handling characteristics; and
- the main environment and food safety risks.
Level A also has three elective modules of which at least one must be completed:
- Storage; and
Each of the elective modules covers the environmental issues associated with that part of the logistics chain as well as general principles of best practice operation.
Fertcare Level B
Who should attend: Level B is for suitable for sales staff who spend a significant proportion of their time on fertilizers and those ready for material of medium complexity.
What is covered: Level B is focused on developing underpinning knowledge of nutrient issues relating to environment and food safety. It is a basic education in plant nutrition designed to enable personnel to improve communication with their customers and provide warnings and simple advice or to refer customers to Level C trained staff where appropriate. The major subject areas covered at a medium level of complexity are:
- Soils and nutrients;
- Environment & food safety;
- Logistics; and
- Occupational health and safety issues.
Fertcare Level C
Who should attend: Level C is primarily suitable for people providing soil and plant nutrition advice and for those ready for complex material. Level C is a prerequisite for application to become a Fertcare Accredited Advisor.
What is covered: Level C training covers the environment and food safety competencies required at the advisor level including:
- Environmental issues;
- Fertilizer environmental stewardship review methodology (FESR);
- Food safety issues;
- The regulatory framework and label requirements; and
- Awareness of OH&S and stewardship issues in transport, storage, handling and application of fertilizers.
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