SCOTTISH farming leaders yesterday gave a warm welcome to a promise by European Union health commissioner John Dalli to look at the sheep electronic identity scheme to see if it could be simplified.
Nigel Miller, the president of the National Farmers Union ofScotland, said he was delighted at the open-minded response from the commissioner following a meeting with Scottish MEP, George Lyon.
At that meeting, Dalli stated he was willing to examine any proposals that might simplify the EID system while retaining the spirit of the legislation. In response, Lyon said the commissioner had now agreed that the NFU and National Sheep Association proposal to tweak the rules further and allow farmers a move to a more flexible single flock tag system would be looked at by his senior officials.
This would allow home-bred ewes to run through their breeding life on one tag with the double tag rule only kicking in when they left the holding.
Lyon added: “I intend to work closely with both the NFU and the NSA to take advantage of this opportunity to improve the sheep EID scheme that is causing so much concern among farmers and I hope a meeting can be arranged first thing in the new year.”
Miller described the move as a “very helpful intervention by George Lyon and if it opens the door to further discussions with commission officials on sheep EID, then that is an opportunity that we will gladly take”.
George Milne, the NSA’s development officer, said he was encouraged that Dalli was willing to meet to discuss any options going forward if it removed some of the problems that sheep farmers had experienced this year.
“The fact that we have 5.5 million individual movements recorded on the Scot-Eid database – which have been recorded as real-time movements – should provide robust evidence to put a solid case to the commission.”
Miller added that the union would continue to take a two-pronged approach to the difficulties Scotland’s sheep farmers have been experiencing with the EID rules.
“On a home front, we will continue to work with Scottish Government on compliance issues, while on a European basis, we have consistently argued for a wholesale review of the regulation at the earliest opportunity.”
Last night rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said he welcomed Scotland speaking with one voice on the issue, especially if it included a fresh look at the regulations.