Farmers who grow identity-preserved (IP) grains must be able to keep them separate and free from contamination by other crops, and to prove the separation has been maintained.

Bill Wilcke, University of Minnesota extension ag engineer, offers these suggestions:

- Develop a customer service attitude. Auditing and testing are part of most IP programs, but honesty and trust are also important, says Wilcke.

- Know what's in the contract.

- Develop an IP plan. Make a list of all steps involved in producing a crop, trying to anticipate where contamination could occur. Then develop a plan to minimize contamination at each step. Record the plan and document your actions to implement it.

- Consider growing and storing IP crops in separate locations from your other crops.

- Keep detailed records. Wilcke advises recording planting dates, field location and size, seed identity, inputs used, harvest date, yield, bin number where the crop is stored, date it's delivered, name of the person who delivered it, and the number of the vehicle used.

- Clean all equipment between crops.

- Keep an eye on custom operations. Make sure anyone you hire understands IP and cleans his equipment. Document names, dates, amounts and locations.

- Keep samples of the seed, harvested crop and delivered crop. Label and keep them until the buyer is satisfied.

- Watch costs. Make sure IP premiums exceed costs, including labor for cleaning equipment, time and systems for record keeping, inspection fees, employee training, extra equipment, etc.

- Calculate risk. Consider the risk of contamination and marketing options if the crop doesn't meet the standards for your intended market.