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Eureka moment for farm assurance

by 5m Editor
8 June 2007, at 8:34am

UK - The Holy Grail for pig producers is to persuade government agencies and local authorities to use farm assurance as a risk management tool.

Assured farms are independently audited to significantly higher-than-base standards - so they are less likely to flout regulations. Therefore the Rural Payments Agency and Trading Standards (for instance) could make better use of limited manpower by targeting farm inspections elsewhere.

The risk management concept is looked upon favourably by DEFRA, as a legitimate mechanism for cutting red tape.

It has been a long time coming but the watershed moment has now arrived. The lateral-thinkers who have grasped the nettle are the Food Standards Agency.

As predicted on this page last year, they have agreed that Europe’s new food hygiene regulations will be policed on the basis of risk. In practice, this means only two percent of assured farms will face statutory inspections, compared with 20 percent of non-assured farms.

The new food safety rules require primary producers – such as pig-keepers – to be inspected by Trading Standards for compliance.

The inspections will cover the keeping of accurate records concerning, for instance, veterinary products, and the nature and origin of animal feed.

Producers would also need to show they are using medicines responsibly and they are preventing contamination from water, soil, feed, veterinary products and waste.

The principle of using farm assurance as a risk management tool has at last been established. “This is saving farmers time and offering improved biosecurity because there will be fewer visitors coming onto each unit,” said BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan.

He hopes the principle of risk-based regulation can be extended to other areas of pig production and processing industry in the near future.

The Food Standards Agency estimates savings each year from the new agreement will be around £500,000 (in saved time) for the farming industry and £2 million for Trading Standards departments.

So what of other areas where working with farm assurance could reduce costs?

TRANSPORT COMPETENCY CERTIFICATES

If you transport your pigs over 40 miles you should hold a certificate of competence from next January. It had been hoped the new certificates could be delivered by farm assurance.

However, Defra and Assured British Meats have been unable to reach agreement.

Assured British Meats wanted assurance scheme membership alone to be sufficient proof of competent driving skills, whereas Defra insisted the assurance schemes should first get accreditation as a training body. Result: stalemate.

IPPC

What if assurance auditors were trained to inspect for IPPC compliance and could award certificates of conformity which were acceptable to the Environment Agency?

The IPPC permit-holder would have to pay for the bolt-on inspection – but the sum would be significantly less than the IPPC ‘subsistence’ rate currently proposed by the Environment Agency of over £2,000 a year.

The story so far is that an IPPC farm assurance bolt-on has been developed. It would cost farmers about £450 a year.

But disappointingly it would – if introduced - reduce the Environment Agency subsistence fee by only £600 because the Agency would still want to carry out an annual inspection itself.

5m Editor