Intervention on sheep EID brings forward movement

James Webber of Shearwell Data ltd. demonstrates electronic identification systems.
James Webber of Shearwell Data ltd. demonstrates electronic identification systems.

NFU Scotland has welcomed the support shown in Brussels this week as leading politicians put their weight behind finding a workable solution to EU rules around the electronic identification (EID) of sheep and recording of sheep movements.

In mid-May, it emerged that the UK’s approach to enforcing compliance with rules on electronic tagging and movement reporting at farm level was unacceptable to the European Commission.

Europe is looking for 100 percent accuracy on farms when reading and recording electronic tags. Given the nature of the UK sheep sector in general, and the Scottish system in particular, NFUS feels that is unrealistic, impractical and unachievable and would put demands on compliance ahead of the more important issue of traceability.

Both Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead and Defra Minister Jim Paice met with European Commissioner John Dalli on Tuesday to discuss the issue. The Union understands that dialogue between the UK and the Commission was constructive and gave cause for cautious optimism that a workable solution will be found.

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller, who met with Mr Lochhead in Brussels after the Dalli meeting, said: “It is reassuring and encouraging that our leading politicians are so actively engaged in finding a pragmatic solution to the way in which the European Commission is looking for the EID regulation to be implemented and policed in the UK.

“We understand that the atmosphere between the politicians and the Commissioner was positive and that dialogue will continue over the coming weeks.

“UK and Scottish Governments are looking to help sheep producers maintain traceability under the new rules in a workable fashion with targeted, achievable compliance standards that recognise the challenges of electronically tagging our flock.

“Europe is likely to look further at the UK as a whole as well as the individual implementation plans for each devolved area. In Scotland, Government and stakeholders have developed what we believe to be a robust system, delivering full traceability backed up through a central database for movements.

“Were the EU to persist with a dogmatic approach on compliance, we have genuine fears it could destroy any value generated by the unique EID tagging and movement database we have developed here in Scotland. We will work with our politicians in the coming weeks in a bid to convince Europe that the Scottish system ticks the right boxes and provides a good system on which to build our sheep traceability system on in the future.”