Each year, Scrapie Canada is audited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The point of this audit is to evaluate the National Scrapie Project Coordinator’s compliance when it comes to processing producer files for the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (VSFCP). The next two From the Flock articles will outline the purpose behind this audit and how it affects producers enrolled on the program.
During the annual audit, the CFIA is looking to ensure that all producer files are being processed in line with the rules laid out in the VSFCP’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) – a document that details the roles and responsibilities of the Scrapie Project Coordinator and participating producers.
The VSFCP SOP was developed by the CFIA in coordination with industry through the Scrapie Working Group- a committee developed to oversee Scrapie Canada’s projects and programs. The Scrapie Working Group is made up of representatives from national organizations representing the Canadian sheep and goat industries such as the Canadian Sheep Federation, the Canadian National Goat Federation, the Canadian Sheep Breeders Association and the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association.
The SOP was developed to provide the Scrapie Project Coordinator with an outline that indicates exactly how files should be handled. It also explains how and when producers should be completing and submitting their annual paper work, and the repercussions of not doing so.
As the VSFCP moves forward in its evolution as a program, it is critical that the SOP be followed exactly. This may have not been the case in the early days of the program, when the administration process was new and producer uptake was low. At that time it was equally important to get the program up and running and get producers informed about scrapie. To put it simply, Scrapie Canada was young, new and trying to work out the administrative ‘bugs’.
Now that the VSFCP has been in place for six years, many lessons have been learned and the industry is more aware of the administrative requirements. As mentioned above, one of the critical points that has been raised as a result of the annual audits by CFIA, and by internal discussions, is that the program’s SOP needs to be followed exactly, and for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the SOP ensures that all producers on the program are treated in the same manner in respect to processing their files. It creates consistency and equality across the program regardless of who the participating producer is or who is acting as Scrapie Project Coordinator.
Because scrapie is related to trade, the SOP is also an important document in regards to accessing and maintaining trade partners. Current and potential trading partners are quite interested in Canada’s scrapie program. They want to know that Canada has a strong and reliable program in place. They also want to know that the enrolled producers are following the rules as they are laid out.
This is where the annual CFIA audit comes into play. At the end of each audit, Scrapie Canada is handed a report that outlines the administrative areas that can be improved. Scrapie Canada then has a responsibility to address those areas and ensure that they are in line with the SOP.
Once the suggested areas have been improved, Scrapie Canada reports back to the CFIA confirming that certain changes or corrections have been made.
At the same time, Scrapie Canada can determine sections of the SOP that may need to be reevaluated and/ or updated. Scrapie Canada comes up with these points of reevaluation through discussions with the Scrapie Working Group and by receiving feedback from producers.
It is important to note that while the credibility of the program is imperative to our trading partners, it is also important to ensure that the program is working well and in the best interest of Canadian producers.
The CFIA uses the annual audit report as evidence that Canada is running a credible and consistent program that is being audited, and improved, on an annual basis.
Next month’s From the Flock article will address how the annual CFIA audit affects producers and what role producers have in the evaluation process.
Funding for the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program is provided through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) AgriFlexibility program. Opinions expressed in this document are those of the Canadian Sheep Federation and not necessarily those of AAFC.