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Stackyard News Jul 06

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EU Sheep Tagging Derogation Secured

The European Commission has renewed the UK farming industry’s crucial derogation from sheep identification requirements. This decision follows months of negotiations involving NFU Scotland, the Scottish Executive, Defra and the European Commission.

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The EU Regulation, first published in December 2002, would have required Scottish farmers to record, with pen and paper, the individual identification numbers of all sheep, every time they move. It would also have required all sheep to be double-tagged at an estimated cost of £20 million a year.

NFUS, together with the Scottish Executive, has worked to convince Brussels officials that the current Scottish system, which requires batches of sheep to be recorded rather than individual identification numbers, is effective in delivering all the disease traceability assurances demanded by Europe. As a result of this work and a successful inspection by Brussels officials, the UK was granted a temporary derogation in July 2005. This has now been renewed for a further year following another successful inspection.

Reacting to the announcement, NFUS Vice President Bob Howat said:

“I am pleased that we have again managed to secure a derogation from the European sheep tagging requirements, although the welcome is tempered somewhat by the news that it is only a one-year derogation again.

“Frustratingly, further changes to our identification system had to be agreed to convince the European Commission that our sheep ID system offers the same level of traceability as those operating elsewhere in Europe. These changes relate to the tagging of sheep for export and the replacement of lost tags within 28 days. I understand the Executive will be writing to all sheep keepers shortly to explain the changes.

“The full EU requirements are fine in theory and they may work for some smaller sheep producing nations, but they are simply unworkable in the UK. We are the biggest sheep producing country in Europe with over a quarter of all sheep and we have by far the biggest average flock sizes. Our stratified system of sheep production is unique because of our climate and terrain and the European policy makers must take this into account in future when devising new rules.”

“We agree entirely with the Commission that there should be a robust system of traceability and identification and we are convinced out identification system delivers exactly that.”

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