UK agriculture ministers met with EU Commissioner John Dalli in Brussels today to discuss the important issue of electronic identification of sheep movements.
This is the latest in a series of ongoing talks in which the UK has raised concerns over the difficulties for British farmers around the new EID system, particularly in achieving 100 per cent accuracy in the electronic reading of all sheep movements to avoid penalties to their Single Payments under the Common Agricultural Policy.
UK agriculture minister, Jim Paice, and Scotland’s Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, had a constructive discussion with Commissioner Dalli, where they explained the distinctive nature of the sheep industry in all parts of the UK, the challenges it faces and the need to accept that some electronic identification reading error will occur.
Jim Paice said:
“Our sheep farmers have worked extremely hard to implement the electronic tagging of sheep.
“I have stressed our determination to deliver a system which provides traceability, but because of the frequency and volume of sheep movements in the UK, we need flexibility that recognises that delivering 100 per cent read rates is not always achievable.
“Today we’ve been able to discuss in greater detail how we can ensure that farmers are not unnecessarily penalised for problems beyond their control.”
Richard Lochhead said:
“Scotland has taken a unique position on EID and made significant investments to deliver systems that are suited to Scottish needs. Our approach helps limit the burden on farmers while still adhering to the principles demanded by the EC’s EID Regulation. That needs to be recognised by the Commission.
“I made the point strongly today that penalising farmers who do not achieve 100% accuracy is unjust and unfair. I stressed that for Scottish farmers, given the nature of the Scottish sheep flock, this is both impractical and unworkable.
“Today’s discussion was constructive and we will continue to engage and press on this issue until a workable solution for Scotland is found.”
The Ministers and Commissioner agreed that the most important objective was robust traceability. A number of ideas were discussed and the UK will put a further proposal to the Commission that reflects the circumstances of different parts of the UK.