ICSA President, Patrick Kent, has said that the board of Bord Bia have serious questions to answer about why the review of the Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) has been allowed to drag on for so long and why farmers still don’t have an automatic right to a re-audit.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships earlier today, Mr Kent said: “This was a big issue at last year’s ploughing where serious, committed farmers were being thrown out of the QAS without any recourse to immediate appeal. Interestingly, a recent court case involving the Department suggests that no farmer should be subject to sanctions without having the opportunity to appeal before the penalty is applied. It is unacceptable that cattle and sheep farmers’ livelihoods, already precarious, are further undermined by being thrown out of the scheme and that no proper system of automatic and instant appeal is available.
“ICSA met Bord Bia officials about this issue last spring and we were given to understand that this was going to be rectified as quickly as possible. We are now outraged that, as we head into the crucial autumn time for slaughtering cattle, farmers are still at risk of being thrown out of the scheme for six months. This is unacceptable.”
He added the Association is also frustrated that the issue, first raised by ICSA at the ploughing championships in 2014 relating to the abuse of the QAS scheme by factories, is still not resolved.
“I am seriously wondering if the board of Bord Bia is fit for purpose. There is no point in blaming the staff of Bord Bia; the buck stops with the board. It is not good enough that there is no prospect of fair play for farmers in 2016 and I am calling on the board to account for its tardiness in sorting out these questions. In particular, the review of the QAS for cattle and sheep farmers has taken far too long and if the board does not see the urgency of the issue, then maybe it is time for Minister Creed to step in," said the ICSA President.