Farm organisations have flat out rejected a recommendation by Bord Bia that farmers in its quality assurance (QA) scheme should only buy cattle from other certified QA farms.

Farmers who wish to join the QA scheme should be afforded the “easiest route” possible and the scheme should have farmer-friendly terms and conditions, IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan has said.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal in response to the recommendation, he said that small suckler farmers who sell weanlings “see no benefit” in being quality assured.

“We have requested that this recommendation is removed, we won’t move any further with discussions until it is.

“We would see the QA as a marketing tool, farmers should have the freedom to go to the mart and buy whatever cattle they see fit,” he said.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said that the recommendation could potentially be a matter for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), on whether this is a breach of competition law being proposed by a State agency.

“This is essentially barring access to the market for sellers, and it is restricting the choice of stock available to buyers,” he said.

Derek Deane, a former Bord Bia board member and former IFA deputy president, said that the marketing body’s effort to get suckler farmers into the QA schemes by making it a pre-condition on SCEP, has fallen flat on its face.

“I see the technical committee’s recommendation to try to get more suckler farmers into QA just smacks of ‘jobs for the boys’ and has to be resisted at every level.

“The recommendation of grass measurement is another red herring, given that suckler farmers by their nature are extensive,” he said.

A Bord Bia spokesperson said that the “proposal around purchasing from other QA herds was suggested as a recommendation only (not auditable criteria).”

The exact criteria and recommendations of the new standard are still at a draft stage, they added.