BORDERS MP Michael Moore is joining calls for the Scottish Government to end uncertainty over electronic sheep tagging (EID) rules to prevent the region’s farmers being penalised.
The Borders agricultural fraternity earlier this year welcomed European regulators agreeing Scottish farmers would be exempt from having to achieve a 100 per cent read rate of electronically tagged sheep.
But local farmers are still waiting to find out from the Scottish Government what level of compliance they must reach to avoid financial penalties.
Mr Moore said: “I have always been extremely concerned about the effect EID would have on our farmers as it is hugely expensive and adds another administrative burden to 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.”
His call follows a meeting between more than 80 sheep farmers and Scottish Government officials in Inverurie last week. And a similar meeting between farmers and Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) officials will take place at The Lodge, Carfraemill, near Lauder on December 7.
Set up by NFU Scotland, the evening discussion will look at on-farm enforcement of what the union describes as “difficult and complex” sheep identification rules.
NFU Scotland livestock policy manager Penny Johnston said: “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.
“We are getting Scottish Government compliance officials round the table with sheep producers to answer questions on the complex and confusing regulations regarding sheep movement and tagging rules.
She said problems include the reliability of EID technology, poor tag quality, difficulties endured by farmers who have had official sheep inspections on their farms and there being no clear picture of the read rates required.
“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.”
She said NFU Scotland and the co-operative body, SAOS, have funding for ScotEID, the Scottish Government-funded research team working with farmers on EID, to run training sessions for farmers on how to use the database ScotEID has set up.
She added: “For inspection purposes, farmers must continue to keep in mind that compliance is focused on any breeding sheep that have been brought onto a farm and have been double tagged. The arrival of such animals must be properly recorded. If a farmer has had an inspection and there are issues around the read rates on the breeding sheep he has brought on then ScotEID has also offered its services in trying to iron out any problems with the data.”
The meeting, open to NFUS members, will start at 7.30pm.