Early troubles for dairy quality scheme
Fears over 'split milk pool' and over-stringent testing create backlash
Plans to launch a new dairy farmer quality assurance scheme by Bord Bia early next year appear to be floundering.
The problems centre on the possibility of dairy farmers who fail additional inspections for the scheme being demoted to second-class milk suppliers even if their milk meets all of their dairy processors' existing quality standards.
The differences between Bord Bia, milk processors, feed suppliers and the farm organisations over the scheme surfaced during the first three meetings of the technical advisory committee which includes industry stakeholders and is responsible for designing the scheme.
A key concern for both the processors and farm organisations relates to the issue of inspections for the scheme.
While a number of parties to the negotiations declined to be quoted, they claimed that draft regulations for the scheme were so stringent that a milk supplier could fail an inspection for not having paperwork in order.
This would force a dairy farmer out of the scheme, even if their milk was perfectly acceptable in terms of quality when tested on collection every second day by their dairy. Processors fear that a tough stance on the scheme rules could result in a split milk pool, with some suppliers in the quality assurance programme and others excluded.
While Bord Bia insisted that the scheme would be a voluntary one, milk processors and farm organi- sations have argued that the practicalities of the dairy sector mean that all of the country's 18,000 dairy farmers will be required to join any new national quality assurance programme.