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FUW welcomes EID rules relaxation


The Farmers’ Union of Wales today welcomed European Commission indications that it will not punish sheep farmers for electronic identification (EID) errors beyond their control.

The EC’s reported decision follows strenuous lobbying from Scottish MEP Alyn Smith and the FUW who raised the issue several times with the Welsh Assembly Government and even launched a petition to the Prime Minister which gained the support of 1,000 UK farmers.

“We have regularly pointed out the very real worries of Welsh farmers that they would be forced to pay heavy cross-compliance penalties as they grappled with the new EID regulations which came into force last January,” said the FUW’s hill farming committee chairman, Llangurig sheep farmer Derek Morgan.

Mr Smith had called on the Commission to give farmers a three-year amnesty while new EID technology was initiated. They declined to agree to an amnesty but a spokesman confirmed this week it would adopt “a proportionate” approach for farmers.

In this context, failures, breakdowns, shortcomings, which are not within the range of influence of the keeper but casually determined by the technology used and within the normal error rate of that technology should not be sanctioned, the spokesman added.

The Commission also indicated it would not “automatically” penalise farmers where “one ear tag is missing”.

Welcoming the news, Mr Morgan recalled telling the Assembly’s rural development sub-committee in March last year that the union believed there were sufficient grounds for the EU Ombudsman to investigate the fact that farmers were being forced to use a technology that had been shown to have major flaws.

“I have first hand experience of EID, having used it on a small proportion of my Welsh Mountain sheep for the past seven years, and found that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock. This has also been the experience of the vast majority of farmers and slaughterhouses that took part in recent trials.

“Even when dealing with a small number of sheep that are electronically identified, we are forced to manually record information on paper due to reliability issues with the technology. It’s all very well using it to record and monitor a small specialist flock, but scaling its use up for every sheep in the country is madness.”

In a written submission to the sub-committee’s EID inquiry, the FUW emphasised the particular problems the regulation would bring for Welsh farmers, highlighting the fact that 80% of Wales comprises Less Favoured land, and that Welsh farms are therefore dependent upon moving animals from the mountains into the lowlands for wintering.

The FUW’s petition, in the name of vice president Glyn Roberts, stressed that compulsory EID meant the increasing financial and practical burdens placed upon UK farmers would put them at a competitive disadvantage compared with importers into the EU.

It underlined farmers’ concerns that the EID technology had major flaws including reliability, which brought into question the credibility of the decision to impose it from last January.

Mr Smith said the EC’s latest move was encouraging news for farmers operating an imperfect technology. The sub-standard technology puts UK farmers at risk of having their Single Farm Payment docked for reasons beyond their control.

He said he would soon meet with the Commission to reinforce this point and to secure further clarity on their stance.

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