The Irish dairy industry has committed to providing an annual fund of €1m for a dedicated trade communications programme to promote the credentials of the Irish dairy sector as a source of high-quality, sustainably produced dairy products.
The fundamental platform for the programme is the implementation of a National Sustainable Dairy and Quality Assurance Scheme with international accreditation.
The scheme is designed to benefit the dairy industry, from the farmer to the customer. It will provide the necessary proof to customers of dairy products that milk has been produced under both Sustainability and Quality Assurance criteria.
According to Bord Bia, at farm level, sustainability involves minimising the amount of resources (for example electricity, feed, water and so on) used to produce a kg of milk solids, however implementing measures that enhance the environmental performance of a farm will also typically deliver economic benefits through lower costs of production.
According to Bord Bia, at a broader industry level the expected benefits from the roll out of this scheme include:
• Access to markets that demand on farm certification
• Capability to benchmark Irish milk production internationally
• Assurance for customers regarding sustainable production of quality milk
• Ability to demonstrate the commitment of Irish dairy farms to sustainable farming practices.
In terms of how the scheme will work, Bord Bia recently confirmed it is open to all milk producers with a valid herd registration, supplying milk processors in the Republic of Ireland.
To apply for membership, the producer will complete a short application form that can be returned directly to Bord Bia or via the milk purchaser.
Bord Bia will process the application and then assign the farm to an auditor.
In advance of a visit by the auditor, the producer will receive an information pack. A farm visit will be conducted by an independent auditor on every member’s farm at 18-month intervals at a time and day that suits the farmer.
The purpose of the visit is to audit the farm against the quality assurance criteria and to collect data regarding the sustainability of the farm.
According to Bord Bia, as all the current requirements in the dairy hygiene regulations are included in the SDQAS standard, this will remove the need for a separate inspection by the milk purchaser.