MEPs vote to remove EID from cross compliance
MEPs have voted to exempt sheep EID from cross compliance as the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee signed off its position on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.
The UK sheep industry has become increasingly concerned at the prospect of losing some of their Single Payment through cross compliance penalties through no fault of their own when EID technology fails.
The Agriculture Committee backed a proposal from German MEP Albert Dess to completely remove EID from the cross compliance rules as they voted on amendments to the European Commission’s CAP proposals on Wednesday and Thursday.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon urged the EU Commission to reconsider its approach to cross compliance penalties following the message sent by MEPs.
“Forcing sheep farmers to jump through hoops to maintain their single farm payments is simply not right. The Scottish industry has bent over backwards to comply with the EID rules but it has been clear since the legislation came into force that they are unworkable for the majority of Scottish sheep farmers,” he said.
“While this is only half time in the ‘CAP game’ the Commission will have to reconsider their hard line approach to EID and X compliance before final negotiations begin in March.”
Mr Lyon has been appointed to the five-strong team of negotiators for the final talks with the Commission and Farm Ministers on keys parts of the CAP reforms, including direct payments.
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith, who also sits on the committee, described the EID vote as a ‘scoop’.
“We have seen all SMRs relating to animal ID deleted, meaning that sheep EID would be taken out of cross-compliance altogether. I know all too well just how much of a relief this would be to so many of our farmers. Of course, we’ll need to see how it fares in plenary and in negotiations with Council but certainly the Committee has made a very clear statement today,” he said.
The NFU has welcomed the vote by MEPs to support an extension of the EU’s sugar regime until the 2019/2020 marketing year.
NFU sugar board chairman William Martin said: “NFU Sugar has worked hard on behalf of farmers to make sure the position of our industry is heard and well understood by MEPs. We are therefore delighted that they have responded positively to our requests and recognised that the European beet sector would face damaging upheaval if the Commission’s proposals to end the regime in 2015 came to fruition.”
He said it was it was vital that MEPs had agreed to allow sugar growers to be represented by a in contractual negotiations by a single body through the powers of an inter-professional agreement.
“This safeguard is vital to give growers the necessary balance in the market as there is an only one purchaser and processor of sugar beet in this country,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Agriculture Committee voted on a number of areas of the reform process. Key measures included easing the burden of ‘greening’ on farmers, reintroducing capping into the package, allowing member states to transfer money between the two Pillars, allowing re-coupling of subsidies to production and beefing up intervention rules.
While large parts of the Parliament’s reform package will be welcomed by farmers, UK MEPs have criticised the moves to boost intervention.
Julie Girling, Conservative agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, said: “Worst of all this protectionists’ charter will bring back rampant interventionism. It threatens to send us back to the bad old days of butter mountains and wine lakes and of inefficient European farmers sitting pretty on a cushion of taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Smith said the vote to allow ‘double funding’ whereby farmers would get paid twice to do the same thing in the rural development report ‘will need to be cleared up’ in the wider Parliament vote scheduled for March or in talks between MEPs and Farm Ministers.
But he concluded: “All in all, a good bit of work to get us here and if this is the general shape of the Parliament’s position as we head into negotiations then I think Scottish farming is sitting in a promising position for the next CAP.”