Representatives from the UFU’s Hill Farming and Beef and Lamb Committee attended the NI Farm Quality Assurance Board meeting.
The board usually meets bi-annually to discuss matters relating to the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme and is made up of farming representatives, LMC, DARD and meat processors.
The Industry Board met in the morning with the main focus on Red Tractor Lifetime Assurance. The Industry Board has continued its opposition to lifetime assurance by meeting with and writing to Red Tractor in recent months.
The board has now agreed that a further course of action should be taken and it is proposed that the Board will send representatives to England to improve awareness of the standards in NI, the importance of the APHIS database to local production and the need for Red Tractor to re-evaluate their position on lifetime assurance. The Board also received an update on ‘Earned Recognition’ which is something the LMC continues to work on with DARD, NIEA and the FSA to reduce inspections for quality assured farms.
The Standard Setting Committee met in the afternoon. One of the key items on the agenda was the FQAS Butchers Scheme. There have been concerns raised recently that some FQAS butchers are not selling FQAS meat. The Board agreed that this is unacceptable and that a review is needed of the Scheme to ensure that no one in retail is able to take advantage of the scheme standard and marketing. Veterinary medicine residues in red meat were also discussed.
While detection of residues is at a very low level, the Board agreed that farmers need to be vigilant with withdrawal periods for veterinary medicines as Government and food supply chain consider residues a very serious issue which could damage the reputation of farm produce if the correct precautions are not taken.