Over 3,500 farmers who put in an application for the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Program (SCEP) are yet to apply for quality assurance from Bord Bia.
One of the eligibility conditions of SCEP, as set by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), is that participants must also become a certified member of the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) by October 16, 2023.
Bord Bia said it noticed earlier in the year that farmers were delaying scheduling audits, by pushing off scheduling when contacted by an auditor until summertime and then closer to the October deadline.
It said that in the last month or so a big uptake has “finally” been seen by farmers taking time slots when contacted by auditors with an audit date.
Bord Bia said it will do its best to accommodate late applications, but that it “cannot guarantee certification ahead of the deadline on such a tight turn around if the vast number of these outstanding farmers yet to apply do so now at short notice close to the deadline”.
The original figure for SCEP applicants lies at 20,400.
Bord Bia said there has been indication from DAFM that approximately 1,000 farmers have withdrawn and been removed from SCEP since it closed.
There is a possibility that these farmers are part of the 3,500 yet to apply for quality assurance.
Bord Bia confirmed to Agriland that there have been 7,690 applicants to SBLAS since the beginning of 2023, with the vast majority due to SCEP.
A total of 5,548 of these new entrants have had audits completed.
A further 1,520 have an audit date scheduled in advance of the October deadline.
A small remaining number applied, but when contacted have said they will be withdrawing from SCEP.
In a statement, Bord Bia said: “The key message communicated to farmers from Bord Bia is the need to take the audit as soon as possible to ensure auditor availability prior to the DAFM deadline for producers to have obtained certification.”
The audit verifies the standards required in SBLAS. During the audit, the auditor will inform the farmer if any area does not comply with the requirements of the standard. Any issues identified as nonconformities are explained by the auditor.
The farmer has a period of up to 28 days to provide evidence of corrective action to fix any non-conformances found and ‘closeout’ the audit.