Following a meeting regarding farmer concerns over Quality Assurance audits, IFA President Eddie Downey said Bord Bia has agreed that photographic evidence will only be taken with the explicit permission of the farmer in advance, and as a means of sorting problems without the need for another farm visit.
He said Bord Bia has agreed that no photographic evidence will be taken as part of beef and sheep farm audits between now and year end, pending the introduction of new close-out type arrangements being agreed similar to thoe operating on dairy farms.
Eddie Downey said this is a major improvement from the current unacceptable situation where auditors were taking as many as 30 pictures on some farms.
At the meeting with Bord Bia, IFA raised strong farmer concerns about the increase in the severity of audits, pressure on auditors and farmers, the unnecessary use of photographic equipment at audits, the need to simplify the beef and lamb specifications and a close-out approach.
Eddie Downey said IFA is fully engaged in a review of the current Quality Assurance specifications for the beef and lamb scheme with Bord Bia and the industry, and finalising this is a priority. It was agreed to move to a close-out process under the new scheme as opposed to the current approach of expelling farmers with non-compliance issues. He said this will be real progress and was working well on the dairy scheme. It was also agreed that farm audits on beef and sheep should be completed within a target time frame of 90 minutes and no more than three hours on dairy farms.
The IFA President said under the current review of the beef and lamb scheme, all parties need to work towards having a more consolidated specification and reduced list of criteria for the scheme. In addition, the beef and sheep specification should not have more criteria or higher thresholds than the dairy scheme.
Eddie Downey said IFA is very supportive of Quality Assurance and increasing the number of farmers participating in the schemes. He said the importance of a strong Quality Assurance Scheme for the Irish livestock and dairy sectors with the support of farmers and industry was well recognised.