Launched in December 2013, the Scheme was developed in cooperation with milk producers, processors and the regulatory authorities, including the Minister’s Department.
Its aim is to give the dairy sector the capability to both benchmark Irish milk production internationally and to demonstrate the commitment of Irish dairy farms to sustainable farming practices.
The Scheme also allows the sector access to markets and buyers that demand on-farm certification and provide assurance for those customers regarding sustainable production of quality milk.
The Scheme is open to all milk producers with a valid herd registration who supply to milk processors in the Republic of Ireland.
Applications are processed by Bord Bia who then provide an information pack and assign the farm to an auditor.
A farm visit will be conducted by an independent auditor at 18-month intervals at a time and day that suits the farmer.
The purpose of these visits is to audit the farm against the quality assurance criteria and to collect data regarding the sustainability of the farm.
Responding to questioning from Fianna Fail’s Charlie McConalogue last week, Minister Creed said there are approximately 17,800 dairy farmers in Ireland.
“To date over 17,000 applications to join the scheme have been received representing 96pc of all dairy farmers.
“In total over 83pc of all dairy farmers are now certified, meaning that their audit is completed and all corrective actions undertaken.
“This Scheme does not have an end date, as is common with all quality assurance schemes of this nature.
“It is a matter for processors as to how to deal with milk from suppliers who may choose not to join the scheme,” he said.
The Minister’s comments come as milk producers without Bord Bia Quality Assurance accreditation are facing total rejection by all dairy processors of milk supplies from their farms within months.
Processors are said to be intensifying pressure on “non-compliant” suppliers to obtain certification with warnings that non-certified milk will not be accepted by the end of the year.
Of the eight top processors in the country, it is understood that suppliers to four have achieved 100pc accreditation. Rejection of non-QA milk supplies has been introduced in some areas, while other processors are penalising non-compliant suppliers by at least 2c/L on milk price.
Recently, Arrabawn’s Conor Ryan warned “the next six months will be critical” for full participation because it will no longer be acceptable that 1pc of non-compliant producers can effect the benefit of the scheme. He said 97.7pc of suppliers have QA.
“While we have not got to that point yet, other co-ops are now refusing to collect milk from farmers who are not involved in it,” he said.
Mr Ryan said a small number not participating were generally older farmers that may not remain in milk production.
The co-op is working with them as within months the society will have to cease collection of milk from non-certified farms.