Representatives from the UFU livestock committees participated in the Farm Quality Assurance board meeting last week.
The board includes farming representatives, processor representatives, DAERA and the LMC and meets every six months to discuss FQAS matters affecting the industry and also the standards which are set for the assurance scheme:
Lifetime assurance has been a key issue for the industry board over the last 18 months.
The industry in NI continues to object to Red Tractor proposals for lifetime assurance on the basis that the Aphis system is superior to traceability systems in GB as well as the costs lifetime assurance would bring to the industry with no additional returns from the market.
The industry board also discussed earned recognition which is a key mechanism within the scheme. FQAS has long argued for earned recognition of the standards kept in the scheme and has used this to lobby for reduced risk of cross compliance inspections from DAERA.
The LMC is currently in talks with the Food Standards Agency about developing a memorandum of understanding which should see further recognition for the standards FQAS members keep in relation to feed and hygiene laws. Again it is hoped this will reduce the risk of inspections on FQAS farms.
Members of the committee were made aware that having consulted with DAERA, the LMC has received clarification that there is no requirement for farmers to record the use of Tuberculin in the medicines book following TB tests.
Veterinary medicines residues found in animals post slaughter was discussed as well. While the incidence of this is very low, members discussed the importance of keeping to withdrawal dates with livestock medicines as not to pose any risk to the food supply chain and to protect the integrity of the farm quality assurance marketing scheme.
The committee also discussed proposals for a new FQAS butchers scheme. At the last board meeting concerns were raised that some FQAS butchers were selling imported beef and lamb in their stores.
Members had agreed that this was not an acceptable situation and that changes were required to how the scheme would run. Following discussions over the past six months the FQAS board has come forward with new proposals that will see the butchers scheme brought closer in line with farm inspections