Scottish sheep farmers will have to hope that the politicians in Brussels get through the mountain of proposals for reforming the Common Agricultural Policy in order to unearth ones aimed at bringing in tolerance levels on sheep identification.
After heavy lobbying from the National Farmers Union of Scotland and its fellow farming unions in Ulster, Wales and England, a number of members of the European Parliament from across the UK have tabled amendments to the CAP reform process to prevent penalties being imposed over the electronic identification of sheep (EID).
One of the MEPs, George Lyon, laid amendments aimed at removing the threat of single farm payment cross-compliance penalties for farmers who have failed to comply with strict requirements in EID by replacing sheep tags lost through no fault of their own.
His amendments would also compel the European Commission to introduce guidelines setting out further flexibility for member states on the implementation of EID rules.
Lyon said the amendments were an attempt to remove the threat of heavy penalties on single farm payments for sheep producers who had accidentally lost tags in their flocks.
“It would not exempt farmers from meeting the legal requirements of the EID legislation,” he said, “but it would remove the risk of a cross-compliance penalty on their single farm payment which is the one of the biggest complaints I hear from Scottish sheep producers about EID rules.”
Another amendment, tabled by a group of Conservative MEPs from the UK, calls on the Commission to issue guidelines on the interpretation of the rules on animal identification that reflect, particularly in the case of electronic systems, that 100 per cent accuracy is often not possible and some tolerance should be built in.
So far around 7,500 amendments have been tabled on the CAP Reform proposals and it is possible that other potentially beneficial amendments regarding the impact of electronic identification may yet emerge before the lengthy process of securing support among MEPs begins.
According to NFU Scotland’s livestock policy manager, John Sleigh, the union had consistently argued for an acceptable level of tolerance throughout the discussions on the implementation of sheep EID.
“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,” he said.
“But as the rules stand, any of these problems could result in farmers receiving cross compliance penalties.”
He said he was pleased the MEPs had taken the opportunity to challenge the Commission rules with new amendments.
He added: “We must now work doubly hard to get support from a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament to push these changes. That will be a challenge.”
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Source: the scotsman
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