SNP member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today (Thursday) used a meeting with the Irish Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney TD to press for action on sow stalls, EID and origin labelling.
Some 17 EU states have not fully complied with new legislation on pig welfare, and Alyn reiterated his call for a ban on exports from those states which have not met the standards agreed some 10 years ago. The Minister responded with the news that the European Commission has commenced formal enforcement proceedings against those states which have not complied, but that the Commission has stopped short of a trade ban as it wants to exhaust the enforcement proceedings first.
On EID, the Agriculture Committee voted last week to remove EID from the forthcoming cross-compliance regime, and Alyn sought an assurance that the member state governments would not seek to reinsert it as the negotiations go forward. The Minister undertook to discuss this issue further with Alyn and Alyn agreed to update the Minister fully on the committee's position.
Alyn also highlighted the recent controversy over horse meat in burgers, and paid tribute to the Irish FSA which identified the issue. Alyn stressed that there is and remains no threat to human health, but that more urgent progress must be made in bringing forward far tougher standards on origin labelling. The Minister responded that while the European Commission is presently compiling proposals for new standards, and agreed that more needs to be done and that this issue has given added impetus to the work.
Speaking after the meeting, Alyn said:
"This was a classy presentation from the Irish minister, as a former MEP himself he knew where the committee was coming from and responded to all of our concerns. We're well served in Scotland by the fact the Irish are in the chair at this crucial time for EU agriculture.
"The meeting focused on CAP reform of course, and I'm impressed by his focus and clear desire to get a deal through. I wish him and the Presidency well and hope the member state haggling over the budget won't cause further delay.
"On sow stalls, the fact that infraction proceedings have started is good news, but not enough and hard on the heels of the battery hens debacle we really need to be tougher lest this become a pattern. I remain firmly of the view that a trade ban is the best way to stop member states dragging their feet and I'll keep campaigning for one.
"On EID, I was glad of his offer to discuss this further, and I'll certainly be knocking on his door to update him on the committee's position. I've no doubt the Irish sheep farmers were as happy as the Scots when the committee voted to remove EID from cross-compliance - now we need to ensure the member states don't try to slip it back in.
"On the recent burger debacle, I was glad that he agrees that more needs to be done on labelling. While there was no risk to people in the slightest, the affair has undermined confidence in the supply chain, and with good reason - there isn't enough transparency. The Commission is indeed bringing forward new rules but this could certainly do with a bit of urgency."