UFU lodge cattle ID Cross Compliance concerns with Stormont Agriculture Committee

Wednesday, 26 November, 2014

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has submitted a list of concerns to the Agriculture Committee of the NI Assembly in relation to cattle ID cross compliance.

UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson said: “Farmers will be aware that following the discovery of a missing cattle tag, they have 28 days to replace it. However, in January 2014 DARD began assessing farmers tag replacement policy by introducing a threshold on the amount of single missing tags farmers were allowed at inspection.  While this was publicised in June of this year by DARD via the local press, they did not make all herd keepers aware of these changes until they subsequently released their autumn ‘Helping you Comply’ bulletin. We have made DARD aware of our concerns about this threshold on a number of occasions this year however they have thus far maintained their line that this threshold is required in order to satisfy the European Commission.  Recent feedback from our membership is now showing the impact these changes are having on the ground and farmers have concerns about how this threshold was introduced and how it has been applied.  Further to this we have also been made aware that there is much more flexibility in neighbouring regions and that it is clear that DARD has once again gold plated regulation far and beyond the European requirements.

Ivor continued: “While the changes to DARD’s cross compliance mechanism is our primary concern we have also highlighted a number of other issues that we have in relation to cattle ID and more specifically the  problems farmers are experiencing with the quality of tags that are on offer in Northern Ireland. DARD’s statistics show that almost 7% of tags needed replaced in 2012 and 2013 which does not compare favourably with the Republic of Ireland where the replacement rate was only 4.2% in 2012.  This issue is creating a considerable burden to farmers both in terms of cost and the time associated with replacing them. Over the course of 2012 and 2013 approximately 430,000 tags were replaced and if we assume an average replacement cost of £3.60 (exVAT) this means that a total of over £1.5m was spent on replacements alone across both these years.  For us, this is an unacceptable cost and with the replacement rate in ROI much lower, it is clear that DARD must put in place a more stringent process for approving quality cattle tags in Northern Ireland.  We would also ask that DARD consider the reinstatement in Northern Ireland of the option for farmers to use a Secondary metal tag along with the Primary plastic tag to bring us back in line with the rest of Great Britain.”

Ivor concluded: “Overall, there are a number of matters that we feel must be addressed by DARD to reduce red tape and cut costs for farmers.  Having consulted neighbouring regions in GB and ROI, the UFU’s initial views have been confirmed that DARD has adopted a much more severe interpretation of the Commission guidance than was required. The Agriculture Committee at Stormont has recently noted concerns about the changes made by DARD as well and the UFU are asking for their full support in seeking a full review of the current circumstances in NI.”