The FAA program assesses the competence of advisors to make nutrient recommendations and is currently the only independent quality assurance scheme for advisors providing nutrient advice based on soil and plant testing. Assessment is based on standards set by the Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council (ASPAC), which have been mapped to national competencies (i.e. AHCWRK301 Collect samples for a rural production or horticulture monitoring program, AHCPCM402 Develop a soil health and plant nutrition program & AHCPCM505 Conduct environment and food safety risk assessment of plant nutrition and soil fertility programs) from the Agriculture Horticulture and Conservation Land Management Training Package “Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package” . The standards used are updated over time to ensure they keep pace with best practice from a productivity, environment and food safety perspective as well as keeping pace with advances in sampling and analytical techniques.
The standards cover sampling, analysis, interpretation, recommendation and monitoring. Recommendations are tested for completeness and for appropriate management of environmental and food safety risks. The standards are based on accepted scientific consensus with ASPAC providing advice on any dispute or review.
The program draws on key texts and national industry initiatives like the “Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping Systems” project in the grains industry, the “Better Fertiliser Decisions” project in the intensive grazing industries and "Six Easy Steps" for sugar cane.
Once advisors have been assessed as competent, they are subject to a biennial audit of randomly selected recommendations made in the preceding two year period.
The audit is a quality assurance process to ensure that competence is being routinely applied and provides mechanisms to improve and rectify any underperformance.
Because many advisors use nutrient decision support systems to interpret soil and plant analysis results and aid the creation of recommendations and nutrient management plans, systems can be recognised by Fertcare depending on the services offered.
Both the assessment of competence and the biennial audit can be completed either on an individual applicant basis or on a systems basis.
The assessments and audits are delivered by third party contractors with standards overseen by ASPAC.
The FAA program along with initiatives such as the national industry projects bring together sound science, good industry practice and use to inform and assist public policy development and implementation.
Program participants who meet the requirements of the program are encouraged to display the FAA logo on recommendations and personal communication such as business cards and email signatures etc. and let their customers know what the logo stands for.