Borders MP Michael Moore is joining calls for the Scottish Government to end uncertainty over new sheep tagging rules to prevent Borders farmers from receiving financial penalties.
Earlier this year Mr Moore welcomed news that farmers in Scotland would be exempt from new rules that require farmers in the EU to achieve a 100% read rate of their sheep. Ministers at Holyrood are, however, yet to provide farmers with specific details on what level of compliance farmers will have to reach to avoid fines.
Commenting, Mr Moore said: “I have always been extremely concerned about the effect sheep tagging (EID) would have on our farmers here in the Borders as it is hugely expensive and adds another administrative burden onto their businesses while not being particularly effective.
“This uncertainty surrounding the level of compliance required is a further frustration for farmers and I want to urge Scottish Ministers to confirm the rate as a matter of urgency.”
More than 80 Scottish sheep farmers met with Scottish Government officials last Wednesday to discuss on-farm enforcement of the difficult and complex sheep identification rules.
The meeting was facilitated by NFU Scotland and involved representatives from the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID). Similar meetings are being planned around the country.
The European-led rules on recording sheep movements and electronic tagging remain deeply unpopular with many Scottish producers. Guidance on compliance was issued recently by Scottish Government to all registered sheepkeepers but farmers have requested further details on what is required, particularly if a farm is subject to an official inspection.
Speaking after the meeting, NFUS Livestock Policy Manager Penny Johnston said: “At the request of members, we are getting Scottish Government compliance officials round the table with sheep producers to answer questions on the complex and confusing rules regarding sheep movement and tagging rules. Scottish Government has sent keepers information but this meeting clearly demonstrated that there is still a demand from producers for greater clarity and face-to-face meetings with compliance officers are a step forward.
“I thank them for their attendance and their public invitation that if producers have questions on compliance to contact their local SGRPID office. Given the frank discussions, I am sure SGRPID staff left the meeting with a clear steer on the significant number of problems sheep farmers are having in meeting requirements on electronic tagging and movement recording.
“The lengthy list of problems ranged from the reliability of the EID technology, no clear picture of the read rates required to meet compliance standards, poor quality of tags supplied and the difficulties endured by those who have had official sheep inspections on farm.
“Feelings amongst sheep farmers clearly continue to run high over the justification and enforcement of sheep ID rules and it is useful that compliance officers have a better appreciation of how damaging farmers view the regulations. The industry still has huge issues with this regulation and it will take ongoing engagement and assistance from all interested parties if we are to work towards a pragmatic solution.”