NFU Scotland’s latest discussions with the European Commission on sheep tagging and movement recording rules, due to come into force at the end of the year, has seen officials rule out any further significant concessions.
Regulation 21/2004 will make it obligatory for all Scottish sheep keepers to electronically tag sheep born after this date and keep a record of each animal’s individual identity every time they move. The Union believes this will bring little benefit but has the potential to add a significant level of cost and bureaucracy for all sheep farmers.
NFU Scotland President, Jim McLaren, was in Brussels today (Thursday, 10 September) attending a European workshop entitled ‘Simplification of Requirements for Identification and Registration of Animals.’ Although deeply disappointed that, in private, Commission officials ruled out further changes to the rules, Mr McLaren repeated his long-standing request for a meeting with Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner in charge of the proposals, and for that meeting to take place at her earliest convenience.
NFU Scotland’s Vice-President Nigel Miller, along with other Scottish stakeholders, also met with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead in Edinburgh today to discuss the regulation and its implementation in Scotland.
Speaking from Brussels, Mr McLaren said:
“Here we are in Brussels discussing simplification of arrangements for the identification and registration of animals when we are a few short months away from Europe bringing into force regulations within the sheep sector that will have exactly the opposite effect. There are times when the European machine needs to take a step back and give greater consideration to the impact of its actions rather than viewing increased regulation as the only answer.
“The response from Commission officials on the prospect of securing further changes to Regulation 21/2004 was disappointing but unsurprising. I took the opportunity to repeat my request for a meeting with Commissioner Vassiliou, following up written requests and requests lodged on our behalf by friendly MEPs. Compared with the constructive relationship that NFU Scotland has built up with the Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, it is frustrating that we cannot get a foot in the Health Commissioner’s door.
“I would relish the opportunity to meet because I firmly believe that I can make a case for common sense and flexibility that would improve the regulation for the benefit of every sheep farmer in Europe. Concessions already agreed, including the ability to use critical control points such as markets and abattoirs to report movements electronically, will help strip out some of the costs. Without further concessions, the costly regulation runs the risk of losing large chunks of EU sheep production and that cannot surely be the aim of the Commissioner or her officials.”
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