The move from fully remote audits comes in line with the government’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The state agency confirmed that fully remote audits would only be possible under exceptional circumstances.
Bord Bia has already notified all farmers who are due audits in the coming weeks.
Deirdre Ryan, director of Origin Green and Sustainable Quality Assurance at Bord Bia, explained:
“The easing of Covid-19 restrictions means that under the terms of the schemes’ own accreditation body, INAB, it is necessary for Bord Bia to return to full farm audits for the next audit cycle.”
“The remote audits have served the programme well for the past 18 months, ensuring the continued certification of eligible farmers. However, it is important to return to farms once again.”
Bord Bia said it will continue fully on-farm audits provided they are in-line with government guidelines.
The state agency is currently examining the feasibility of a blended audit option for beef, lamb, and dairy members.
A blended audit has two parts whereby:
- The farmer uploads supporting evidence (such as remedy usage records) through a secure portal;
- An on-farm audit of the facilities follows.
According to BB, the overall aim is to reduce the time auditors spend on-farm to make the audit more efficient.
Ryan continued: “The majority of farmers adapted well to the remote audit process. The opportunity exists to retain an element of that system.”
She said it has trialled blended audits under the Pig Quality Assurance Scheme, leading to an “efficient approach” for producers.
“Until such a system is developed, full on-farm audits will be the norm.”
In advance of visiting farms, all auditors must complete a training course that covers Covid-19 safety procedures.
Furthermore, auditors must also follow Bord Bia’s Covid-19 auditor guidance document. It provides guidelines on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and physical distancing.
Also, it is recommended that farmers and auditors minimise the amount of time spent indoors.
The Bord Bia Helpdesk is available to assist any farmer with questions about their certification or an upcoming audit (01 5240410).
Farmers can also check their certification status online.