The national farming unions of Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland have won support from a number of European farming unions in their attempts to get the European Commission to review EU rules on sheep EID.
NFU Scotland, NFU, NFU Cymru, UFU and IFA were in Brussels on Tuesday (29 May) and presented a joint position to Copa – Europe’s umbrella organisation for farming unions.
The position paper called for the EU’s sheep tagging regulation to be reviewed at the ‘earliest possible opportunity’ to reduce cost and bureaucracy. The majority of farming unions at the Copa meeting backed the paper. A meeting of sheep experts from all farming organisations that showed support for the UK and Irish position is now scheduled for June. The meeting will be held with a view to agreeing a common position to take to the Commission.
Speaking from Brussels, NFU Scotland’s Livestock Committee chairman and Borders livestock farmer, Rob Livesey said:
“The backing given to our paper by the majority of sheep-keeping nations across Europe helps heap pressure on the Commission for reform of the regulation sooner rather than later.
“It is clear from discussions at the meeting that sheep farmers across Europe are increasingly concerned about the problems they are experiencing with the rules. The list of issues is growing and many more now share our worries about welfare issues, cross compliance penalties, tolerance levels on tags and the like. The support we gained in the meeting is extremely useful and we hope compelling in getting the Commission to consider review.
Sian Davies, from the UK union’s BAB office in Brussels added:
“We have told the European Commission about our problems with the sheep EID regulation repeatedly but they will not listen to us. So yesterday we called on farming unions from across the EU to help us raise our voice and make the Commission act.
“Farming unions from France, Germany, Spain and Sweden were among those that supported our position in the meeting and spoke about their dissatisfaction with implementation of the sheep EID regulation.
“We now feel strengthened to return to the Commission to ask for a review of the regulation with the backing of more farming unions.”
The joint UK and Irish statement in full read:
Tagging sheep with individual numbers, which are born and move only within one keepership can cause tag retention, cross compliance and welfare issues, while adding nothing to traceability and disease control.
The Regulation must be amended to only require tagging when the sheep leave the holding (keepership) of birth.
Despite an improvement in technology, electronic tags and reading equipment do not function at 100% accuracy all of the time. Farmers are being penalised under cross compliance for failures in the technology, which are out of their control. Alongside this, manual reading for the numbers of sheep being moved is not practical and itself is not 100% accurate.
The Regulation must be amended to give Member States the flexibility to apply a simple, workable tolerance under cross compliance. The Commission must also draft a working document, which would give Member States guidance on how to apply a tolerance in a standard way across the EU.
To achieve these changes and also address other administrative burdens (such as the need to record the date of tagging, which adds nothing to traceability), the Regulation must be reviewed at the earliest possible opportunity.
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