IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said IFA is not prepared to sign off on a new Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme, which is currently being negotiated with Bord Bia, without addressing farmer concerns with the current scheme, and introducing substantial changes involving simplification and a more farmer-friendly approach.
Henry Burns said IFA is very committed to a strong and worthwhile Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme, but it must work for farmers. He said the problems around audits and inspectors with the current scheme must be addressed and a close out system, whereby farmers can correct issues without being expelled from the scheme for six months, as currently is the case, must be included.
Henry Burns said there is a growing view among farmers that Bord Bia is too much on the factory side. He said the factories are seriously undermining the Quality Assurance scheme with severe weight penalty price cuts on our best quality cattle. “Farmers are very angry when they look at their factory returns and see a 12c/kg bonus for QA and then see a 10c or 20c/kg of a weight penalty price cut for their best performing animals.”
He said IFA has made it clear to Bord Bia that the inspection approach and farmer questions must be significantly consolidated and simplified. He said the idea of having up to 250 questions/issues on a farm inspection check list is a non-runner.
Henry Burns said IFA are constantly receiving complaints from farmers over the increase in the severity of Bord Bia Quality Assurance farm audits. Farmers report that they are being put under unnecessary pressure by auditors on their farms. They also report that auditors complain of being put under pressure by Bord Bia to adopt a tighter regime.
He said IFA has been very supportive of Quality Assurance and increasing the number of farmers participating in the schemes, but the problems with audits and the factories are seriously damaging the relationship between Bord Bia and farmers, and also damaging the scheme.