Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
Lengthy UK negotiations with the European Commission (EC) in respect of implementing Council Regulation 21/2004, in particular the provision of a tolerance when read-rates are less than 100% at CPRC, have concluded. Disappointingly, the original UK proposal to tolerate any missed reads was rejected. In response to a revised UK proposal, which sets out a potential way forward through a limited tolerance, the Commission has confirmed that cross compliance requirements are not subject to prior validation or approval.
My officials have considered the way in which this limited tolerance might be implemented in Wales, the risk of future audit criticism and the complicated set of additional rules that would be required. Analysis of the 757 inspections undertaken during 2011 reveals that no Welsh farmers would qualify for the limited tolerance available.
In light of this, I have today decided not to provide a limited tolerance for Welsh farmers who fail to record the individual identities in their record books as a result of missed reads at CPRC. I have made this decision having balanced the resource implications of introducing an additional complicated (for farmers and for officials) set of rules that we would have to be communicated to farmers and the fact that no farmers would qualify for the tolerance in 2011 set against the risk to Welsh budgets of potentially €3.4m disallowance.
Whilst I am disappointed that negotiation with the Commission in relation to tolerance did not result in the outcome that I had hoped for, I was pleased to announce in December 2011 that the date from which individual recording of older animals (born before 31 December 2009) was required has been delayed until the end of 2014.
It is clear to me that the core principle of individual recording through EID is here to stay and although I remain to be convinced over the ability of the technology to deliver 100% accuracy, the industry, government and equipment suppliers should now focus their energies on making the technology work for Wales.
It is my intention to establish a Sheep EID Database for Wales to strengthen our management of this matter in the future. To this end my officials are currently assessing the options and I expect to make an announcement on this at the end of February. The provision of this 21st century infrastructure will provide opportunities to remove much of the current bureaucracy and potentially provide a platform for the industry to consider more efficient and therefore profitable ways to produce Welsh Lamb. It will also provide robust evidence on which to base future negotiations with the European Commission.