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SCEP: The steps to becoming a Bord Bia approved member

SCEP: The steps to becoming a Bord Bia approved member

John Galvin, Teagasc Drystock Advisor in Galway/Clare, explains why farmers should apply for the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) and provides details of becoming Bord Bia approved - a key requirement of SCEP participation.

Over the past number of weeks in my numerous consultations with clients, many topics for conversation have come up such as: the Basic Income Support for Sustainability scheme, the replacement for the Basic Payment Scheme; the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme; the National Liming Programme; and the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP). With so many new schemes to be discussed, it leaves little time for the important issues such as the weather and GAA to be covered in any great detail.

The later mentioned SCEP scheme is the replacement for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), that operated since 2015 with approximately 24,000 suckler farmers participating.

The SCEP scheme is open for applications until May 22nd. Whilst it is broadly similar to BDGP, it has a few additional requirements. One such requirement is that the applicant must be a Bord Bia approved member of the Sustainable Beef & Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) by the 16th of October 2023 and have continued participation for the duration of SCEP.

There seems to be some negative discourse amongst farmers about joining SBLAS, particularly among the suckler-weanling producers. The cause of this negativity is mainly as a result of the additional record keeping involved, along with the on-farm Bord Bia audit and the lack of financial incentive for a non-factory finishing farmer. 

Although SBLAS is seen as a Bord Bia standard, they are not solely responsible for it. It is an industry-led standard overseen by a technical advisory committee comprised of various stakeholders such as Bord Bia, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc, the Food Safety Authority Ireland, Animal Health Ireland, farm organisations and meat factory representatives to name but a few.

In my professional opinion, I would encourage farmers to apply to join SBLAS. The only additional records required for an audit are records of own farm feed, which won’t apply to most suckler and beef farmers in Galway, and the Animal Health Plan which is not very onerous. Most records are already required under Cross Compliance.

The main details involved in the process of joining SBLAS and becoming an approved producer are as follows:

  • Apply to join by calling 062 54900 or the helpdesk on 01 5240410 or online at https://www.agridata.ie/public/SCEP.php.
  • In advance of the audit, a Farm Sustainability Survey must be completed.
  • An audit generally takes two hours, involving approximately half an hour walk around the farm with the remainder of the audit taking place in the farm office / kitchen table.
  • For the outdoor part of the visit, the auditor will be looking at: housing facilities; animal handling facilities; health and safety aspects of the farm; animal tag check (random); farm signage; farm chemical store; animal remedies store; footwear disinfection point; farm safety statement; and first aid kit.
  • The indoor segment of the audit is where all the paper work and records are checked and verified.
  • The key elements to this are: an up to date herd and/or flock register; animal movement records; animal passports; knackery receipts; animal remedy prescriptions; animal remedy purchase receipts; animal remedy usage records; up to date animal health plan; animal feed purchase receipts; own farm feeds record, if applicable; pesticide usage records, if applicable; farm safety risk assessment; farmyard sketch showing bait points; as well as waste plastic collection receipts.
  • All of these receipts are required to be inputted into the SBLAS Farm Book.

For new applicants, the previous six month's records are required. For members renewing their membership, records since the last audit (18 months approx.) are required. An auditor will make contact and organise a day and time of mutual agreement. A farm pack will be sent out in the post with record books and templates for filling out the records, along with a checklist to help prepare for the audit.

Whilst all of this may seem quite onerous and yes, it is not something a farmer will pull together the morning of the audit, most of these records are required in the event of a Department of Agriculture Cross Compliance inspection. This means that by joining SBLAS, it will leave the record keeping for your farm in a very good place. The important message is to keep all purchase receipts safely and get into the habit of writing things down in a notebook/diary/phone, especially when it comes to animal remedies. Help can be sought with inputting data.

Furthermore, joining SCEP may generate additional grant income of a possible €3,000 (20 cow suckler herd) – don’t leave this behind by not joining SBLAS.

Joining SBLAS should be seen in a similar light as putting a car in for the NCT. If you pass happy days; if you fail you get a period to make repairs for a retest, but you are not put off the road or fined. Anecdotal evidence shows that over 70% of farmers pass the SBLAS audit with no issues. For those with issues, there is a what is termed a ‘closeout’ period of one month to make adjustments or rectify records and then become a certified member. If you intend remaining in suckler farming for the next five years then join SCEP and book your Bord Bia audit, it is a no brainer.

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