‘Zero tolerance’ EID stance shocks industry
UK SHEEP farmers could face large Single Payment deductions through no fault of their own, after Brussels officials insisted on a ‘zero tolerance’ tag reading policy, UK farming organisations have warned.
Defra and the devolved administrations in the UK have recognised industry concerns over the difficulty of achieving 100 per cent accuracy when reading and recording individual sheep movements.
Following soundings with the livestock industry, they recently submitted a proposal to the European Commission highlighting the need for tolerance. It proposed system that recognised the practical issues of sheep EID and ensured farmers would not fall foul of Single Payment penalties as a result of ‘inevitable and unavoidable incomplete readings under the current system’.
However Commission officials rejected the planned changes after they were presented during a meeting with UK government officials last week. They reiterated their intention to demand 100 per cent accuracy in flock registers, with any discrepancies potentially leading to Single Payment reductions.
NSA chairman Jonathan Barber said the Commission’s response had ‘come as a nasty surprise’, to Defra officials as well as the industry.
He said all the indications, based on the visits to the UK from EU officials and the EU Commissioner Dali himself, were that the message about the need for tolerance had got through.
However, it was now clear that Brussels officials who deal with Single Payment penalties were not convinced of the need for tolerance. Mr Barber said Defra had indicated they would ‘not give up the fight on this one and that there is further to go in this process’.
“NSA will hold them to this and would urge them to fight tooth and nail on this one as without tolerance in the EID regulations the worst recording nightmares of sheep farmers potentially become a reality,” Mr Barber said.
NSA chief executive Peter Morris added that the industry would be looking for the support of politicians as well, ‘in terms of actions and not just words’. He urged all concerned industry organisations ‘to come together in one united front to oppose and lobby for this decision to be overturned’.
NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh said the Commission’s view was ‘truly incomprehensible’.
“Without an accepted level of error on readings farmers are faced with the prospect of receiving fines for inaccurate results which will have been no fault of their own. They are also potentially faced with a huge financial burden due to the need to invest in equipment,” he said.
He said there were many reasons why delivering 100 per cent accuracy was ‘impossible’, on farm, in markets and at abattoirs, because of the practicalities of taking readings.
He adder that the success of the UK derogation which allows third parties to carry out electronic reads on behalf of the producer ‘relied heavily on the acceptance of tolerance’
“Without it farmers will now have to achieve 100 per cent accuracy every single time which, from experience, I know is impossible,” Mr Macintish said.
He said the NFU would continue working with Defra to try and persuade Commission officials to ensure that the severity and implications of this position are understood.”