4th March, 2016
ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the rapidly increasing incidence of farmers failing the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) audits is giving rise to huge frustration and anger among farmers. “In particular, it is totally unacceptable that livelihoods are being put at risk where farmers are suddenly and unexpectedly thrown out of the scheme. In some cases, these farmers will be unable to sell stock.”
ICSA is meeting Bord Bia on Wednesday to demand that the QAS should be made more farmer friendly. All farmers must be entitled to a period of grace to rectify any shortcomings as of right and that they should be entitled to a second audit with a different auditor if they choose. Mr Kent said such a move “is long overdue and would see an end to the farce of top class farmers being thrown out of the scheme for minor technicalities.”
He added that farmers are getting weary of the throngs of inspectors coming on to farms. This has coincided with farm viability getting worse and worse. “As the terms of farm assurance schemes gets more onerous, the return from the marketplace gets worse. Is the Quality Assurance Scheme delivering any real benefit to farmers when we saw the gap between UK and Irish beef price hit an all-time high in 2015?”
Mr Kent said ICSA would be opposing any move to introduce a requirement for farmers to engage the services of a professional to complete their farm safety statement, “Bord Bia are barking up the wrong tree if they think farmers would accept such a proposal. The cost of such a measure alone would remove any incentive to participate in the scheme at all.
It is increasingly difficult to qualify for the quality assured bonus anyway due to weight and age limits as well as the other limitations on the grid based on grade and fat score. Between the demands of the scheme and the demands of the factories farmers can’t win. It’s a frustrating line for farmers to walk.”
Table A shows that the average weights for all acceptable fat score categories (2+ to 4=) of U+ cattle and the vast majority of U= and U- categories are above the 420kg maximum weight