Bord Bia has confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal that certification audits for its Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) and Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) are temporarily moving back to remote auditing.

The move is due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and Bord Bia explains that remote auditing will remain in place until such time as a new blended audit system, which it is currently working on, is put in place.

The target timeframe to have this developed is February 2022.

The blended audit system is being designed to allow an on-farm visit to take place in a safe manner and to “reduce the duration of any on-site element of the audit to an absolute minimum”, with Bord Bia estimating that visits will last approximately 30 minutes.

Reduced farm walk

The blended system will utilise both the remote auditing facility and the on-farm visit. Bord Bia says it will “consist of a pre-audit phone call, a pre-audit documentation upload and a reduced farm walk maintaining full social distancing”.

Any interaction between the farmer and the auditor during the on-farm visit will take place outdoors and the fact that documents will be required to be uploaded online through the remote auditing facility will ensure no transfer of documents.

This is also likely to eliminate the need to take and upload photos of livestock and facilities.

Bord Bia says: “The focus of the farm walk will be to observe conformance with the standard requirements relating mainly to facilities, animal husbandry and animal health and welfare.”

Remote audits

Bord Bia introduced remote audits in April 2020, so at this stage all existing participants are likely to have experienced an online audit at some point.

The period of certification for remote audits was originally set at 12 months before later returning to the standard 18-month timeframe.

Members can check their certification status here.

Producers can obtain information relating to the assurance schemes here, while the Bord Bia helpline number is 01-524 0410.