DARD announces Cross-Compliance changes


The way in which a number of Cross-Compliance rules relating to the identification and registration of cattle and sheep and goats are implemented, is set to change on 1 January 2016, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has announced.

A letter will issue in the coming days to all eligible 2015 area based payment applicants to inform them of the changes relating to Cross-Compliance Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) 7 and 8. The changes include an easement in the approach to assessing missing ear tags in bovine animals.

Cross-Compliance requires all farmers receiving area based payments to comply with Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). These measures help to protect public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare.

Farmers must also comply with Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) standards covering protection of water, minimum soil cover, prevention of soil erosion, maintenance of soil organic matter, retention of landscape features and avoidance of the deterioration of habitats.

Changes to Statutory Management Requirement 7 (Cattle Identification and Registration):

· The herd register verifiable standard will be amended to allow the use of online herd registers. DARD will publish guidance for keepers on this in January.

· For bovine animals found at inspection to have one ear tag missing, the threshold under which Cross-Compliance penalties will not be applied will be raised from 10% of animals within the herd or 20 animals (whichever is the lesser) to 15% of animals in the herd. This easement in approach will be backdated to the beginning of the 2014 scheme year and penalties applied using the 2014 threshold will be recalculated.

· A number of verifiable standards under SMR 7 require keepers to notify the births, deaths and movements of their bovine animals to the Department within specific deadlines which are set out in the Cross-Compliance verifiable standards booklets. Until now when calculating Cross-Compliance penalties only late notifications identified during a Cross-Compliance Cattle Identification Inspection were taken into account. However, the European Commission has advised DARD must take all late notifications made between the start of the scheme year up to, and including, the date of the completion of the inspection into consideration when calculating penalties. Therefore, from 1 January 2016 the records of any business selected for a Cross-Compliance inspection to assess compliance with SMR 7 will also be subject to an administrative check on APHIS. This check will review the timeliness of each bovine notification the business was required to make in the period from the beginning of the scheme year to the end of the Cross-Compliance inspection. If the percentage of late notifications identified through the administrative check is equal to or below 30% a Cross-Compliance warning letter will be issued to this business. If the percentage is above 30% the late notification breaches will be included in the overall penalty calculation for the business. It is therefore important that farmers continue to make all their notifications within the required time limits.

Change to Statutory Management Requirement 8 (Sheep and Goat Identification and Registration)

· At present, flock keepers are required to ensure that their sheep are correctly tagged before they leave the holding of origin or by 9 months of age. (6 months for intensively reared animals). Farmers are required to replace lost tags within 28 days.

· From 1 January 2016 any flock keeper selected for inspection will be required to present all of their sheep and/or goats to the Cross-Compliance inspector who will initially select 60 animals for inspection. The inspector will expect keepers to have their sheep gathered and available for selection when they arrive. The inspector will examine the animals to ensure that they have been correctly tagged and check the holding register to ensure that proper records are being kept. The European Commission has clarified that for Cross-Compliance purposes DARD must assess the animals in the condition in which they are presented to rather than their condition at the end of the inspection. If a significant number of animals are not properly tagged then potentially all of the animals in the herd/flock will be inspected to satisfy the requirements of EU law.

· Where discrepancies are identified this is a breach of the EU Cross-Compliance tagging standard and the farm business will receive at least a warning letter. DARD will re-inspect a percentage of these cases to ensure that compliance is achieved. Inspections will not, however, lead to any financial penalty if:

l There is evidence that the animals inspected have been tagged in both ears. DARD must find no more than 1 animal which has never been tagged.

l No more than 30% of the animals inspected have missing tags. This 30% total includes sheep which have lost either 1 or 2 tags providing there is evidence that they have been tagged at some time.

l All of the animals selected for inspection are recorded in the farmer’s holding register.

l Records are made in the holding register if/when animals are retagged.

Full details of each of these requirements are available on the DARD website at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/articles/what-cross-compliance.