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Encouraging signs for action on six-day rule
“WE want to better engage with farmers and food processors to support and encourage them to obtain the best outcomes for themselves, the environment, and consumers.”
This comment on page 29 of the 133 pages of the Government response to the Farming Regulation Task Force is typical of why this document is five times the length that it need be, and makes me very cynical as to whether we will ever succeed in cutting the red tape burden on farming and food processing.
However, I am encouraged that a review of the six-day standstill which has been in place since 2002 is now recognised as important. While I have no wish to increase the risk of the spreading of animal diseases, the existing rule which causes significant problems for the honest majority, but flouted by a significant minority, means a review is long overdue.
Defra’s modelling on the spread of exotic diseases indicated that effective onfarm separation has a broadly similar impact on the spread of disease to that of standstills.
The Government is now committed to working with industry to remove the current standstill requirements for farmers who choose to introduce separation units.
The Livestock Auctioneers Association is meeting this week to create a plan on how this can be implemented in a workable format which is not overwhelmed by Defra red tape. As the NFU advisor has already recognised, “the devil is in the details”.
The current regime means farmers wishing to sell stock in the market at Malton must not have had any stock introduced to their holding in the previous six days. I am not sure what other industry would put up with such a restriction.
The alternative is for the Tuesday Market to be a slaughter-only market, whereby the animals that come to be sold must then go only to a slaughter house. Again, this is a significant restriction on competitive bidding.
The Farming Regulation Task Force published its recommendations to the Government in May of last year, and the ministers’ announcements last week have followed on from that. It is throwing the obligation to industry to come up with a workable solution and it is important that you keep an eye on the various proposals that will now come forward from industry representatives to ensure we are left with a workable solution.
Confusion over sheep records
The question of identification of sheep by electronic means grinds slowly on into confusion.
Recent evidence from Defra indicates that, from the 1,762 inspections on sheep and goat holdings in 2011, approximately 170 inspections had failures relating to inaccurate movement records in the keeper’s holding register.
Given the difficulties of recording individual ear numbers and the fact that even the best equipment on the market can only offer a reading accuracy in the region of 95 per cent, this draws these results into question.
I suspect it is the confusion regarding the current requirements for recording sheep movements which have managed to confuse even the inspectors.
The EU has now convinced Defra that 100 per cent accuracy must be achieved from markets acting as central point recording centres to record movements of sheep through those premises.
Unless sufficient investment is made within the hardware, this cannot be achieved and is leaving farmers open to penalties on cross-compliance inspections.