Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 22 February 2018

Dairy QA audit row over who pays €193 fee

Declan O'Brien and Darragh McCullough

With the launch of the long-awaited dairy quality assurance scheme just weeks away, questions till remain over who is going to foot the bill.

It has emerged that the cost of each inspection is being put at €193, or €3.5m for the 18,000 participating farmers.

The Farming Independent has seen a draft copy of the six page application form that each farmer will be required to fill out over the coming weeks.

In addition to requiring the herd-owner to sign the form in three separate areas, the application form lists 21 actions and records that the farmer must present during the inspection, such as feed delivery dockets for the past six months.

The form warns farmers that this 'is not a complete list of requirements'. It also asks farmers to refrain from using sewages or sludges and disbudding calves over two weeks of age, or heat synchronisation without veterinary supervision.

Curiously, it also forbids any milk to be supplied from cloned animals. But insiders involved in the roll-out of the new scheme claim that no farmer will be allowed to fail the inspection. This has been insisted on by processors determined to avoid having to deal with two separate streams of quality assured (QA) and non-QA milk.

Despite the advanced stage of the process, agreement on who foots the bill appears to be far from being resolved.

"It is ICMSA's clear and categorical understanding that dairy farmers do not have to pay directly for the scheme as it is funded from the milk processors," said ICMSA deputy president, Pat McCormack.

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The IFA echoed this view, claiming that the Minister, the IDB and participating co-ops had agreed some time ago that they would finance the cost of the scheme between them.

"I want dairy farmers to be very clear that they will not be asked to write a cheque to participate," said the IFA's dairy chairman, Kevin Kiersey.

But this stance is now facing opposition from the larger companies and co-ops.

Processors such as Glanbia and Kerry, with 4,400 and 3,950 milk suppliers respectively, would be facing annual inspection bills of €840,000 and €760,000 if they are forced to carry the cost of inspections.

ISSUES

There are also issues around the position of cross-border milk supplies. "I don't know where cross-border milk stands and how we work with our suppliers in the North," one processor said.

Although the scheme has yet to get final approval and certification from the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB), it is envisaged that it will be officially launched in the second week in December and be operational from the first week of January 2014.

"Nobody will fail the inspections," said one official involved in designing the scheme. "If there are particular problems raised, then farmers will be given time to sort these things out," he explained.

For a preview of the six page QA audit application form, see the Farming Independent's Facebook page.

Irish Independent