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Will WAG protect its flock?
Date 29/03/2010 20:30  Author webmaster  Hits 2174  Language Global
MEP challenges Rural Affairs Minister over EU penalties to sheep farmers

UKIP MEP for Wales John Bufton has written a letter to Elin Jones AM amid concerns over penalties to farmers struggling to cope with EU enforced electronic sheep tagging.

The controversial EID legislation was brought in by the European Commission at the start of the year but is administered in Wales by the Welsh Assembly Government. Following an outcry from concerned sheep farmers, John Bufton challenged the AM over the support being offered by WAG to help farmers implement the legislation and also raised the issue of how penalties will be levied for non-compliance.

After addressing the issue with the European Commission, the MEP is now challenging the Assembly who is responsible for both allocating farm payments, providing support where it is needed and also determining and administering penalties to farmers who have fallen foul of the legislation.

“This controversial piece of EU legislation is causing significant problems for many sheep farmers in Wales. I have tried to tackle the issue with the European Commission who showed little compassion in steamrollering the legislation though at the start of the year. Now I must focus my efforts on the Assembly who will be doing the European Union’s dirty work. What I want to know is what they will do to help farmers both manage and afford the electronic sheep tagging, and also how compassionate they will be in matters of compliance when farmers are struggling to make the system work.

“All Member states have access to funds to support the implementation of EID, and although the Assembly ran a few training sessions, I don’t believe enough is being done to help the farmers in Wales. We have seen that the equipment is often inaccurate, and that it does not come cheaply. We also know that farmers who have struggled with EID could face losing a percentage of their single farm payments. All of these decisions lie in the hands of the Welsh Assembly now. It is a cumbersome and confusing system in which the farmers must be shown compassion and support.”

The following is the letter to Elin Jones AM:

Following recent communications with the European Commission over the implementation of non compliance penalties in relation to EID I am of the understanding that the levy of penalties comes at your discretion, albeit in accordance to European guidelines.

Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 established the principle that farmers who do not comply with certain requirements are subject to reductions of or exclusion from direct support. This means that where farmers fail to meet requirements, the CAP payments they can claim may be reduced or in the most severe cases even completely withdrawn depending on the "severity", "extent", "permanence" and "repetition" of non-compliance. If non-compliances are detected during spot inspections on farm, the competent national authorities take measures and where appropriate apply sanctions in relation to the veterinary legislation and reductions of CAP payments in relation to cross compliance. It is up to the competent national authorities to establish procedures for controls and sanctions on the basis of the EU legislation.

Given that EID has proven problematic for many Welsh farmers and given the equipment’s failures and inaccuracies, I would like to know how you plan to operate a system of punishing non compliance with electronic identification tagging policy?

The EU budget provides for financial resources within the rural development policy (Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005[1]) that can be used to support EID. A number of Member States are planning or have already used these measures. It is, however, a Member State decision to make use of these financial instruments to support farmers introducing EID. I understand training sessions were offered across Wales for farmers, but how else are you using all such resources available to you to help soften the introduction of EID? I also understand that the sheer cost of affording the tags themselves is a substantial financial burden for many farmers. How would you determine who might qualify for support? How is the Welsh Assembly Government going to support farmers during this time and mitigate the receipt of penalties across the industry?