MEPs fight for tolerance in sheep EID rules

British MEPs are seeking to change sheep electronic identification (EID) rules in a bid to make them more workable for UK farmers.

A group of Conservative MEPs have tabled an amendment to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which would introduce an element of tolerance in the EID rules. Currently, there is a “zero tolerance” policy in place, which would lead to farmers being automatically penalised for not being 100% accurate.

Additionally, George Lyon, Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland, has tabled amendments aimed at removing the threat of SFP cross-compliance penalties for farmers who have failed to comply with strict requirements in EID to replace sheep tags lost through no fault of their own. His amendments would also ensure the Commission introduces guidelines setting out further flexibility for the implementation of EID rules in Member States.

The action comes after heavy lobbying from farming groups across the UK, who argue that 100% accuracy on sheep EID would be impossible and unfair.

NFU chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt said: “It’s clear that we need a practical system of traceability and disease control, but that the current regulation is not delivering this. It instead gives farmers a set of complex rules and regulations that often fall down because of technology failures that are nothing to do with the farmer.
“We have worked tirelessly to get this message across to policy-makers in Brussels and so it is good to see the response from UK MEPs. We will continue to work closely with the MEPs to make sure their amendments get the full backing from the European Parliament when it comes to a vote.”

NFU Scotland’s livestock policy manager John Sleigh added: “Throughout the discussions on the implementation of sheep EID, we have consistently stressed the need for an accepted level of tolerance.  
“It is impossible for Scottish sheep farmers to achieve complete accuracy at all times, due to problems with faulty tags, lost tags, faulty reading equipment, climatic conditions and practical difficulties. But as the rules stand, any of these problems could result in farmers receiving cross-compliance penalties through no fault of their own.”

Sleigh pointed out that, given nearly 7,500 amendments have been tabled to the Commission’s CAP proposals, achieving the changes would be a “hard task”. However, he vowed that the Brussels-based British Agriculture Bureau – which is jointly funded by the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union – would continue to work “to try to ensure a positive result”.

A recently published European Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) Report acknowledged the practical difficulties that sheep farmers in the UK and Ireland face with electronic identification rules.

Ulster Farmers' Union deputy president Barclay Bell said: “According to the report, the same difficulties are not being experienced in Spain and Portugal, where they opted to use ruminal boluses instead of EID tags.”

Related news:

>Defra proposes electronic batch tagging only

>Morrisons unveil way to improve lamb quality at slaughter


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