DARD approach to cattle ID Cross Compliance continues to be unreasonable

Tuesday, 12 May, 2015

A delegation from the Ulster Farmers’ Union, including President Ian Marshall; Beef and Lamb Chairman Crosby Cleland; Hill Farming Chairman Ian Buchanan; and Policy Officer Elliott Bell, met with the NI Assembly’s Agriculture Committee this week to reiterate ongoing concerns in relation to DARD’s unreasonable approach to cattle ID cross compliance.

UFU President Ian Marshall said; “Over the last number of months we have consulted widely with our membership on this very important issue and it is clear to us that DARD’s insistence to ‘gold-plate’ European requirements is putting Northern Ireland’s herd keepers at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other UK regions and ROI where standards are much more tolerable and reasonable. DARD has presented proposals to the Agriculture Committee to relax their cross compliance penalty matrix, however, the proposals do not go far enough and in no way bring Northern Ireland’s standards in line with our counterparts in GB or ROI.

“In January 2014, DARD amended their penalty matrix for cattle ID cross compliance and set a completely arbitrary threshold where if either 10% or 20 single missing tags were found at inspection, this would result in an automatic breach of cross compliance. What has farmers most aggrieved by the change is that this is not in fact required in any EU legislation. DARD has taken a number of liberties with this issue and we seriously question how they can set a generic threshold when the number of cattle and rearing conditions within each of Northern Ireland’s 20,000 herds varies so considerably.

“Tag quality is another relevant issue, and while there are some very good tags on the market, there are also some poor quality ones and this is something DARD and DEFRA are directly responsible for as they approve the tags which are for sale in Northern Ireland. At the very minimum between 6-8% of cattle tags are replaced each year in Northern Ireland and while this may seem relatively low it is at least 50% higher than in ROI, where the replacement rate stands at about 4% per annum. DARD should be looking at all facets of the cattle ID cross compliance situation and rather than rushing to penalise farmers, they should instead be ensuring only good quality tags are available on the market.

“What is perhaps most galling to farmers is that an animal with a single missing tag at inspection is still fully traceable; they can still be closely monitored on the Aphis system which even allows DARD to monitor how often farmers replace their tags.  And yet this is still not good enough for DARD and they instead insist on gold-plating an EU guidance document which fails to demonstrate any balance between what is practical for farmers and what appears to be acceptable to the Commission in other EU regions.

“The NI Assembly’s Agriculture Committee is taking an active interest in this situation which is positive and we hope that they will help to bring some common sense to the situation. We have asked the Committee to

support us on three key points: the complete removal of the totally arbitrary 10% or 20 single missing tag threshold imposed by DARD; that as a matter of urgency DARD publish the AFBI research on cattle tag performance in Northern Ireland; and that DARD overhaul their standards for tags to stop the sale of poor quality livestock tags, which are not only costing farmers money but creating a considerable time consuming nuisance and cross compliance burden.”