IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said IFA has put forward proposals to Bord Bia for a new Protocol on Farm Audits under the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme (SBLQAS).
He said this protocol is mainly focused on a farmer-friendly approach by the auditors, whereby they will adopt a positive helpful approach that is respectful, courteous and non-threating to the farmer at all times.
IFA met with Bord Bia this week and went through the main issues the new protocol will cover. Bord Bia has agreed to finalise the arrangements without delay so they can be adopted as best practice on the ground within weeks.
Angus Woods said the new SBLQAS was launched at Easter and already more than 1,800 farm audits have been undertaken. The new Help Desk to assist farmers with any non-compliances and the new close-out facility is up and running with eight trained operatives. The Help Desk is being operated by FRS (Farm Relief Services) from Castleisland Co Kerry and telephone lines are operative from 9am to 8pm daily. IFA has a suggested the service be made available on Saturdays.
Angus Woods said IFA has put forward proposals on which Bord Bia are working, covering a number of key areas such as notice of inspection. He said under the Bord Bia scheme, it is left up to the farmer to decide when is the best time to conduct the audit, usually within about a four-month window. Scheduling the date and time is entirely with the farmer’s agreement.
The Protocol will also cover the audit and certification process as well as the new close-out facility to allow the farmer correct non-compliances. It will make clear what the farmer can expect at each stage in the process and how the Help Desk and close-out arrangements will assist them. Angus Woods said it is important that the farmer is clear on all of the issues before the auditor leaves the farm.
Angus Woods said Bord Bia has committed that, on average, an SBLQAS audit should not take more than 90 minutes.
Other important issues include removing the necessity for farmers to assemble or pen cattle or sheep for an SBLQAS audit. Photographs will only be taken with the absolute prior consent of the farmer and where they can assist the close-out process. The certification period will be for 18 months and Bord Bia will ensure that all auditors are fully trained on an ongoing basis.