Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Stormont Agriculture Committee Chairman William Irwin MLA is due to meet DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill to discuss the issue of the new DARD rules on ear tagging livestock.
Mr Irwin confirmed that he had been approached by many farmers who are concerned about the additional pressures the new DARD rules would place on them and Mr Irwin gave an assurance that the concerns would be raised with the DARD Minister.
Mr Irwin stated: “Following a decision by DARD officials there is now a threshold for missing tags which has been set at 10% of the herd or critically a maximum of 20 missing tags. I have requested a meeting with the Minister in order to bring directly to her the concerns of the wider farming community who are being heavily penalised over this issue. Farmers already had good methods and records for replacing missing tags however the actual physical job of monitoring and replacement within this 20 tag threshold is exceptionally onerous. The Minister must recognise the pressure associated with this change.”
He said: “I also would be keen to discuss the differences in approach between the various departments within Wales and Scotland to see exactly how each area operates their tagging measures compared with Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland farmers recognise the need for tagging and our traceability standards are high which is obviously vital for our food chain security, however rules must also be manageable and not onerous to the point of being unworkable.
“The farming community are also keen to know the reason why the approach has been revised on this issue and I will be asking what evidence or test was used to conclude that the changes were needed. Having spoken to many farmers there is a concern that the maximum threshold is unfair and should be reviewed and upgraded to reflect the reality of maintaining tags in larger herds. All these issues will be discussed at the meeting with the Minister and I will update farmers on this important issue as soon as possible.”