Audit length sticking point in QA schemes
The length of the audits under the Bord Bia beef and lamb quality assurance schemes are proving a sticking point in signing off on the new revised programme, the Bord Bia chief said.
Aidan Cotter said they were waiting on the technical group to approve the scheme, which would bring in a new 'close-off' period to allow farmers a "grace period" to fix any problem areas without facing immediate expulsion from the scheme.
Mr Cotter said the conditions were, for the most part, similar but they had made formal some of the "sustainability" measures under the scheme.
At a climate change debate with the Agri-guild in Bord Bia, Mr Cotter stated he would not advocate penalties as part of the Origin Green sustainability QA schemes as they wanted to build confidence and support.
However, it may be something that could be considered in 20 or 30 years' time. He pointed out there were incentives in place with some dairy processors already giving a "small increase" to those signed up. However, the IFA's Harold Kingston said bonuses or penalties must not apply as farmers were not operating off a level playing field as they worked with different land.
Mr Cotter insisted the audits would be shorter than the dairy audits. "We are undertaking every effort to see if we can reduce that time as well. We understand the demands an audit places on farms," he said.
However, farmer stakeholders have flagged that there have been no meetings of the technical group in a number of weeks on the new QA scheme. They highlighted complexities with farmers spending a "significant" amount of time preparing for audits. Concerns were also raised after the issue of heavier carcases came up in a document on QA scheme producer standards.
Mr Cotter also said a pilot project has been carried out in Northern Ireland under the dairy QA scheme to move towards ensuring farmers across the Border supplying to the Republic's milk pool would be covered in the scheme. He said they were seeking access to the Northern Ireland database.