NFU Scotland is committed to finding a workable solution for Scottish sheep farmers after last week’s revelations that European Commission officials intend to penalise farmers that do not achieve 100 per cent accuracy when reading and recording sheep electronic identification (EID) tags.
During emergency meetings in Brussels last week, NFUS was part of the UK delegation that highlighted to the Commission the serious nature of its demands. Given the nature of Scotland’s sheep flock, it would be impossible and impractical for farmers to achieve 100 per cent accuracy, 100 per cent of the time when reading and recording individual sheep movements.
The Union has discussed the subject with Scottish Government in the past few days. While the Union will continue to work with UK partners on common concerns, the unique nature of the system in Scotland may mean that a Scotland-specific solution may be needed.
NFUS President Nigel Miller said:
“Scotland’s sheep industry is world class with an exciting future. However, producer confidence could be seriously undermined by additional burdens around electronic tagging and movement recording.
“There is a real threat that the compliance standards being driven by the DG Agri branch of the European Commission will force further change on our developing EID tracking system and database. If introduced, it could bring in additional requirements around eartag scanning and recording of sheep movements beyond what we believe is required for traceability.
“Failing to identify a workable solution to this crisis is not an option and, once again, the Scottish industry is pulling together to work through this.
"We have met in private with Scottish Government officials to discuss the subject and we are looking to involve other Scottish industry stakeholders in addressing the situation. Given that we may need to tailor solutions specifically for the Scottish industry, I have raised with the Scottish Government the possibility that Scotland may need to go it alone and enter into direct negotiations with Europe.
“There are problems common to all sheep producers in the UK and Europe and we will continue to work with our colleagues in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and COPA in Europe to resolve those. However, given the unique choices on sheep ID that we have already made in Scotland – a publicly funded EID trial and database development - it is appropriate that we also develop our own agenda if we are to identify a flexible, long term solution to sheep identification and movement recording in Scotland.
"Until compliance issues are settled, it is important all Scottish sheep producers consider making maximum use of the slaughter tag derogation that we have in place. That allows tagging lambs with the single slaughter tag before they reach nine months and then only putting in double tags in those retained for breeding beyond 12 months of age. While the best option for ewe lambs definitely destined for breeding may still be double tagging, for lambs sold as stores, this may make compliance with the current interpretation of rules simpler."