NFU Scotland has warmly welcomed Scottish Government support and funding to assist Scottish sheep farmers in complying with unpopular new European rules which require sheep born this year and beyond to be electronically tagged and their movements recorded.
The package of measures announced by Scottish Government today (Wednesday, 27 January) includes a headline announcement of £1 million funding in the coming year to fully cover the additional costs for farmers in buying electronic tags rather than the conventional plastic ones normally used. Access to this funding will be through joining Scotland’s existing Sheep Electronic Identification (EID) Pilot project.
In addition, the Scottish Government will implement a system of movement reporting involving a central database that will smooth the regulation’s introduction across all the Scottish sheep industry’s stakeholders, including markets and abattoirs. It will also require that all sheep, including those going to slaughter, will require to be electronically tagged.
In welcoming the package, NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren said:
“The Scottish sheep industry, including the Scottish Government, was united in its opposition to this European Regulation. While concessions were secured, we were ultimately faced with the need to implement these unpopular requirements on electronic identification to meet EU rules and we have been working with the Scottish Government since to find a system that is right for the majority of sheep producers in Scotland.
“I believe our Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has come up with a tremendous package that will introduce the regulation across our whole sheep sector in a constructive and positive manner while keeping disruption in the sheep trade to a minimum. Crucially, I believe his proposals will stand up to scrutiny in the eyes of any future European inspection.
“The decision by the Cabinet Secretary to fully meet the additional costs involved in buying electronic tags by delivering an additional £1 million through Scotland’s current EID pilot scheme is a fantastic offer that will address much of the financial burden faced by all our sheep farmers. Farmers looking to acquire the required electronic tags but for a price equivalent to current plastic versions simply need to join the pilot.
“Although the initial commitment on funding is for one year only, we would look to work with the Scottish Government on securing future additional support for electronic tagging. Opportunities for funding at a European level also exist and have already been taken up by some other Member States and we will work with others, including the Scottish Government, to fully explore these.
“The concession permitting sheep movement reporting to be delivered by third parties such as markets and abattoirs will also strip out the cost to farmers of needing their own electronic readers on farm. It is also welcome that farmers will be able to move batches of sheep within their own businesses without the hassle of electronically recording every individual animal. Allowing easier reporting of movements, where there is no change in ownership, is a victory for common-sense.
“A key feature of the announcement is that the Scottish Government has decided that all sheep born this year should be electronically tagged, including those sent direct for slaughter. A derogation was available that would have allowed sheep going straight to slaughter to have received a conventional plastic tag. We wrestled with this decision but in the end we accepted the argument that by tagging all sheep electronically, including slaughter animals, it will keep paperwork to a minimum and allow markets and abattoirs to operate as critical control points to the benefit of the whole sector. For those producers who only sell finished stock, it is reassuring that the costs associated with electronically tagging slaughter animals will be covered by the Cabinet Secretary’s funding commitment.
“We still firmly believe that these EU requirements are unnecessary and welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to work with the Scottish industry in seeking further concessions in Europe. As a priority, we will be looking for the Commission to recognise that sheep should not require tagging until they leave the farm of their birth for the first time. This would acknowledge the low risk posed by breeding ewes, many of which remain on the holding of birth for many years.”
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