SCOTLAND may go it alone in seeking a solution on electronic sheep tagging (EID) penalties.
Last week, European officials said they will penalise farmers who are not 100 per cent accurate in reading and recording sheep EID tags – which is impossible, say farmers, not least because ear tags can fall out.
NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said: “There are problems common to all sheep producers in Europe and we will continue to work with our UK colleagues and COPA [the European farmers’ co-operatives body] to resolve those. However, given the unique choices on sheep ID made in Scotland – a publicly funded EID trial and database development – it is appropriate that we develop our own agenda if we are to identify a flexible, long-term solution to sheep identification and movement recording in Scotland.
“I have raised with the Scottish Government the possibility that Scotland may need to go it alone and enter into direct negotiations with Europe.”
The UK suggested sanctions that focused on maintaining traceability and included cross-compliance, but the EC rejected them because they did not deliver a 100 per cent read rate.
Mr Miller said: “There is a real threat that the compliance standards being driven by the DG Agri branch of the European Commission [responsible for compliance in relation to the single farm payment] will force further change on our developing EID tracking system and database. It could bring in additional requirements around eartag scanning and recording of sheep movements beyond what we believe is required for traceability.”
He urged sheep farmers to make maximum use of the slaughter tag derogation which allows giving lambs a single slaughter tag before they reach nine months and putting double tags only in those retained for breeding beyond a year.
“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, ” he said.
Last week he and other NFUS representatives were in what Mr Miller described as “intensive” discussions with neighbouring UK unions, EC officials and COPA seeking to develop “workable standards” before taking the issue up with the Commission.
“Failing to identify a workable solution to this crisis is not an option, ” said Mr Miller.