Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Ian Marshall, has said a relaxation of cattle ID cross compliance rules must be applied retrospectively to ensure farmers unfairly caught out by the old rules are not financially penalised.
“In January 2014 DARD introduced revised thresholds that meant where 10 per cent, or 20 single missing tags, were found at inspection, farmers faced financial penalties,” he said.
As an example Mr Marshall cited one farmer with just 23 single missing tags out of a herd of nearly 700 cattle. “He found himself on the wrong side of DARD’s ill-conceived threshold and faced a large fine.
“Since then the UFU has been pressing for a relaxation of cross compliance rules to bring us into line with neighbouring regions,” he said.
Part of the UFU’s case was a belief that DARD’s threshold was not in line with European Commission guidelines.
“We were subsequently proven right following a Commission audit back in June, which concluded that the threshold could be relaxed,” Mr Marshall said.
The new proposal for a 15 per cent threshold alone should bring greater flexibility to herd inspections. However the UFU believes this relaxation must be applied retrospectively to ensure unjust financial penalties are overturned.
Mr Marshall continued: “While DARD’s threshold and penalties were always our biggest concern, the quality of livestock tags which DARD approves for the NI market is also a major problem. A massive variation in quality not only costs farmers time and money but also increases the risk of cross compliance breaches,” he said, adding that these poor quality tags must be prevented from reaching the market.
“We need assurances from DARD that they will take action on this serious issue,” said Mr Marshall.