NSA highlights cross-compliance penalties as CAP reform comes under scrutiny

The National Sheep Association (NSA) was heartened to hear Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, reiterate his calls for simplification of the CAP during his stay in the UK this week.

Commissioner Hogan approached all EU Member State farming ministers in January requesting suggestions on how to streamline the CAP, stating that simpler rules ‘would make for greater competitiveness and enhance the job-creating potential of agriculture, of rural areas and of agricultural trade’. Commissioner Hogan repeated his dedication to this cause at the NFU conference yesterday (Tuesday 24th February), suggesting immediate alterations could be made, ahead of wider-scale changes under the mid-term review.

Taking the lead from Commissioner Hogan’s request in January, NSA has written to a selection of UK farming ministers in recent weeks to ask them to prioritise simplification of cross compliance as an ‘easy win’ for the sheep sector.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, explains: “NSA’s correspondence with farming ministers urged them to respond to Commissioner Hogan and to include the issues that arise through the absence of any level of tolerance in sheep EID requirements relating to cross compliance fines.

“The UK has made significant progress in sheep identification and movements reporting, with movements databases now established in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with Wales due to follow later this year. This issue is foremost for most sheep farmers and strikes fear into their minds due to many examples where farmers are fined for minor and innocent mistakes. Additionally all the research conducted, along with thousands of anecdotal cases of evidence, shows that the eartag and reader technology is insufficient to guarantee 100% accuracy.”

Looking more widely at CAP, NSA is also concerned about exclusion of fodder crops as an option for ecological focus areas (EFA) under the new greening rules.

Mr Stocker says: “We feel there is a real opportunity to include grazed fodder crops with ecological focus area options. Some of these crops are nitrogen-fixing and all of them have soil improving properties, as well as increasing wildlife opportunities within arable rotations. This is not a sheep only issue and we share the views of other farming organisations that this should be addressed immediately rather than wait for formal review.”

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