The two main farm organisations have given a cautious welcome to the new Bord Bia Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme.
Chairperson of the ICMSA Livestock Committee, Michael Guinan, said that improvements made to the scheme, such as the helpdesk and close-out period, were to be welcomed but he stressed that all audits carried out in connection with the scheme must be consistent from the start.
He said that, most important, all farmers who sign-up to the scheme need to get a financial benefit when they sell their cattle to a meat plant.
The new scheme provides for a ‘close-out period’ during which farmers will have a month to rectify non-compliances detected at audit without losing their certification status.
Mr Guinan says this is a very important improvement to the scheme and should give farmers time to address minor issues without affecting their ability to claim a bonus when selling animals in the month after the audit has taken place.
IFA President Joe Healy said the new Scheme must deliver better price returns back to farmers and be implemented in a more farmer friendly way.
Joe Healy said that as an exporting nation the ‘Origin Green’ Programme, which is underpinned by the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme, is well recognised on the global market.
However, he said the real measure of the success of the scheme will be where Irish beef and lamb prices are in comparison to other countries.
“Farmers must see a real price return for the efforts they are making in complying with the scheme,” he said.
IFA Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said that IFA was insisting that clear protocols are put in place in relation to how auditors interact with farmers at audits.
He said there would be no charge to farmers for the Bord Bia audit as the IFA has secured Department of Agriculture funding to cover these costs.
IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said it is well established in the lamb sector that there is a 10c/kg price top up for Quality Assurance lamb.
But he said this bonus needs to be increased in order to get more sheep farmers to join the scheme.