British MEPs have tabled amendments to the Common Agricultural Policy to relax rules governing sheep EID tags.
Farming unions such as the NFU and the Farmers' Union of Wales have lobbied on the issue which could see penalties for farmers for failure to replace tags lost.
Farmers’ Union of Wales members and officials have highlighted the major shortcomings of sheep EID to Wales MEP Jill Evans during a visit to a Caernarfonshire farm earlier in the year.
At Gwern Farm, Saron, near Llanwnda, Ms Evans heard how farmer Huw Jones and his family worked hard to make EID technology work as one of 14 Welsh EID trial farms but still experienced major problems.
"Using the technology and having to record and report each and every movement represents a great deal of extra work and costs, and we are finding a significant number of the tags are not being picked up by scanners," said Jones.
Farming unions across the EU have joined to lobby against current sheep tagging EID rules.
In a meeting in Brussels in May, the unions stressed the need to put pressure on the European Commission to review the rules in relation to tolerance, cross compliance and tagging for movements with a holding.
The NFU, Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Irish Farmers’ Association presented their case for reform of the system to their industry counterparts.
Member states, including France, Germany, Sweden and Spain outlined the problems their farmers were facing in achieving an acceptable level of accuracy.
They also shared their concerns over the way the current rules can penalise farmers under cross compliance for failures in technology that can be entirely out of the farmer’s control.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: "This is a real step forward as we build a broad base of support to convince the European Commission that EID tagging does not do what it set out to achieve. The fact that farmers in other member states are struggling with the same problems as we are reinforces what we have been saying over the past few months."
"It’s clear that we need a workable practical system of traceability and disease control but that the current regulation is not delivering this. It instead gives farmers a set of complex rules and regulations that often fall down because of technology failures that are nothing to do with the farmer."
"Having colleagues across Europe in agreement on this issue sends a strong message to the Commission that the current rules need to be changed."
The MEPs say the rule change is necessary given 100 per cent accuracy on EID is often not possible.
Peter Garbutt, NFU chief livestock adviser said UK farmers had worked closely with MEPs to advise them on sheep EID and would give their full backing to the amendments to change the rules.
“Right from the outset the NFU has lobbied to make the rules on sheep EID fair and workable,” said Garbutt.
“It’s clear that we need a practical system of traceability and disease control but that the current regulation is not delivering this. It instead gives farmers a set of complex rules and regulations that often fall down because of technology failures that are nothing to do with the farmer.
“We have worked tirelessly to get this message across to policy makers in Brussels and so it is good to see the response from UK MEPs. We will continue to work closely with the MEPs to make sure their amendments get the full backing from the European Parliament when it comes to a vote.”
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