Farmer fears on cattle EID plans after sheep fiasco
The mistakes made by Eurocrats when formulating rules for sheep electronic identification (EID) must not be repeated in new rules for bovine EID, say British farming organisations.
They are warning European policy makers to learn from their mistakes.
The call comes as MEPs adopted new suggested guidelines for farmers that choose to use electronic identification in cattle.
After heavy lobbying from the NFU, the MEPs backed the European Commission proposals for bovine EID to be voluntary – and rejected an amendment to introduce mandatory EID ten years from now.
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The MEPs also accepted an amendment put forward by the NFU to acknowledge that errors while using EID technology are often outside the control of farmers, such as faulty tags or inaccurate electronic readers, and as such they should not be penalised under cross-compliance rules.
Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, gave a cautious welcome to the MEP vote.
He said: "The letters EID strike fear into farmers, after the debacle we experienced over sheep EID. That is why we have worked in Brussels with MEPs and policy makers to learn from the mistakes on electronic sheep tagging with these proposals on bovine EID.
"It is essential that the introduction of bovine EID is voluntary, to allow farmers to choose to use the technology if they are likely to see a benefit in their farm business.
"For those farmers that do use the technology, it is equally important that they are not penalised for errors which are beyond their control.
"Given our past experiences, it is slightly worrying that the MEPs have asked the Commission to review the voluntary rules on bovine in five years from now, but we shall continue to work in Brussels to make sure our cattle farmers do not suffer under this review."
The MEP vote on the bovine EID regulation came after the European Commission published proposals amending its current regulation on the identification and registration of bovine animals in August last year. The proposals provide for the voluntary introduction of bovine electronic identification and the deletion of voluntary beef labelling provisions. The MEPs' conclusions will now be passed to EU agriculture ministers to consider, before being passed back to the European Parliament for its final approval.
"The NFU will continue to work with the decision-makers both in the Agriculture Council, the European Parliament and Defra as they work towards a final agreement," added Mr Sercombe.