Cross compliance penalties to be back-dated

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed confirmation from DARD that it has accepted calls from the UFU for new cattle ID cross compliance rules to be applied retrospectively to January 2014. As a result farmers who breached the old rules will now have their cases reviewed.

In one example under the January 2014 rules cited by the UFU in discussions with DARD, a farmer with just 23 missing tags in almost 700 cattle was hit with a substantial four figure fine.

“It was clear from when we became aware of these rule changes that DARD’s thresholds were wrong and this case along with others prompted the UFU to press for a relaxation of cross compliance rules to bring us in line with neighbouring regions,” said UFU president, Ian Marshall.

The decision by DARD to move to a 15 per cent threshold for single missing tags at inspection and also to apply this retrospectively to January 2014 comes after a sustained period of lobbying by the UFU. “This is welcome news for those who found themselves over the original threshold, mainly because they fell on the wrong side of the 20 single missing tags rule,” said Mr Marshall.

He added that the UFU understands DARD will now review all cattle ID cross compliance cases for the past two years. “We hope this will see previously applied financial penalties overturned,” he said.

While this issue has been resolved, the UFU says it remains concerned that quality controls for approved tags here are not as robust as they need to be.

“Poor quality tags not only cost farmers money and time, but also put them at risk of cross compliance breaches,” warned Mr Marshall. He said that while DARD accepts the need for high quality standards it needs information from farmers about sub-standard tags to keep tag manufacturers under review.

“Where farmers have concerns about poor performing tags I would encourage them to report this via the Ear Tag Performance form, which is available on the DARD website,” said Mr Marshall.