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EU policy makers urged to back British livestock

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EU policy makers were today urged by the NFU to back British livestock farmers or risk threatening the viability of the sector.

The call came during a high level debate organised by the NFU in the European Parliament. The Big Livestock Debate, which attracted experts from across the European institutions, tackled key issues affecting farmers such as high input costs, animal health and welfare regulation and the impact of trade liberalisation.

NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh said: Given most livestock regulation is drawn up in Brussels it is vital that we are here raising the profile of our industry.

Britains livestock farmers are proud of the standards they have achieved in traceability, high welfare and environmentally friendly farming practices. But we are concerned that our efforts could be undermined by poorly thought-out regulation.

Further trade liberalisation between the EU and the Latin American trade block Mercosur, for example, could decimate our livestock industry. If we are not careful consumers could end up buying beef from deforested areas of Brazil rather than from grassland cattle in Cumbria.

EID is another area of concern. The Commission must abandon plans to penalise farmers that do not achieve 100 per cent accuracy when reading sheep EID tags. We have told the audience today that it is impossible for EU farmers to achieve 100 per cent accuracy, 100 per cent of the time.

We must also stop what I call knee-jerk regulation. Take the welfare of animals during transport as an example. According to the European Commission, transport standards in the UK are excellent but other member states continue to flout the rules. But rather than increase the burden of regulation across the board as has been suggested by certain MEPs we need to ensure the current regulation is enforced fairly across the EU.

Livestock farmers are facing huge pressures up and down the country and across Europe. Not only do we have short term issues, such as a lack of rain, but we are also facing record high input prices. Without the support of our MEPs and policy makers we could end up pushing some of our farmers out of business completely.

  1. The Big Livestock Debate followed the Informal Agriculture Council in Hungary which took place yesterday and also focused on livestock issues.
  2. The debate was attended by UK MEPs, political staff and representatives from Defra.
  3. It was also attended by representatives from the European Commission, the European Council and the forthcoming Polish presidency
  4. It was hosted by Brian Simpson MEP.

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