This week’s national Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) from Bord Bia continues the food board’s great work which has seen food an drink exports increase rapidly.
After 18 months of planning in conjunction with dairy farmers, milk processors and regulatory authorities, the scheme should run smoothly.
It has been designed to record and monitor the sustainability of Irish dairy farming and production of quality milk.
According to Bord Bia, it is the first national dairy scheme of its type anywhere in the world — a rigorous, independently verified and internationally accredited programme that sets out the requirements for best practice in Irish dairy farming, and provides a means of measuring and improving the performance of every participating farmer.
Bord Bia’s goal is for all of Ireland’s nearly 18,000 dairy farms to be signed up and participating by 2016.
Obviously, the needs of the customers for our €2.6bn of dairy exports have also been taken into account in the painstaking planning.
The majority of leading multinational customers (including Unilever, Nestle, Danone and Kraft) have set out long-term-targets to enhance the sustainability of their supply chain.
From January, dairy farmers can apply directly to Bord Bia to take part in the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme.
However, it is expected the majority of the applications will come through milk purchasers and local co-ops who will fund the scheme and co-ordinate applications on the ground.
Once a farmer expresses an interest in the scheme, an SDAS pack will be sent out. Following application by the farmer, an auditor will be assigned to visit the farm, in consultation with the farmer.
Upon certification, farmers will become members of the Origin Green programme, a Bord Bia programme that seeks to position Ireland as a world leader in sustainability.
The cost of the audit and associated costs of certification will be met by the milk purchaser — there will be no cost to the farmer.
Like all Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme, it’s a voluntary scheme.
However, a milk purchaser may require all of its suppliers to become members.
For members of the Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme who want to join the SDAS, the same auditor will conduct both audits on the same day.
For those who fail an audit, ample opportunity will be given to sort out any non-compliance.
But, where a farmer does not address necessary issues within the certification period, the herd will fall out of certification.
Each milk purchaser will have their own policy regarding the collection of milk from farms that lose certification.
The SDAS payoff is clear.
It is fundamental to Bord Bia’s plans, also announced this week, to invest almost €3.5m next year (including €1m of dairy industry funding) in a targeted marketing campaign, under the ‘Origin Green’ banner, to promote Ireland as a source of world-class sustainably produced food and drink.
According to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, it will position Irish dairy farmers and milk processors as “best in class”, globally.
He said the measures needed to improve environmental performance and those required to reduce input costs and improve profitability at farm level are the very same.
Ireland is already starting from a position of strength in high quality and sustainability, this programme capitalises on our natural assets, according to the minister.
Bord Bia does not underestimate the challenges they are embarking on in the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme and the accompanying €3.5m targeted marketing campaign.
Aidan Cotter, chief executive, says there is an “unprecedented need” for the dairy industry to secure its market position, in conjunction with the planned increase of 50% in milk output by 2020, after the ending of dairy quotas in 2015.
He said that as the industry approaches its final year with quotas, this week’s sustainability investment could hardly be more timely, but also could arguably hardly be more urgent.
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