Smith Dismay at NFUS Findings on Individual Sheep ID

24 February 2009
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has today (Tuesday) had his fears over individual identification of sheep confirmed with preliminary data from the NFUS survey of members indicating that a very significant number of those active in the sheep sector will reduce stock, even halving the national flock, should individual ID be introduced.

The preliminary data is very much an initial indication of the strength of feeling over this issue, and as data continues to arrive at NFUS HQ, Smith will continue to maintain close contact. The publication comes the day before a delegation from the Agriculture Committee arrives in Scotland, to amongst other meetings head up to Glenfernate with the National Sheep Association to see for themselves how difficult in practical terms individual ID would be.

Smith said:

"I commend NFU for providing the debate with actual facts and real data on the strength of feeling over this issue amongst farmers. I am in no doubt from umpteen meetings nationwide that the flawed individual ID proposals agreed to by the UK government back in 2001 will see the trickle of destocking already underway turn into a flood. It saddens me greatly that so many people are genuinely contemplating walking away from the industry, but I will redouble my efforts to head off the actual implementation.

"We have brought the Agriculture Committee to Scotland to see the issues for themselves and hopefully win them to our cause, we are seeing movement amongst the other member states as well and I will hopefully soon be heading to London to meet with Hillary Benn to urge him to bring this debate back into the Council of Ministers to amend the legislation.

"Individual ID is a well-meaning but flawed idea, and if it precipitates the sort of destocking hinted at in these findings then the consequences for domestic production of meat, Scotland's rural economy and environment as well as our rural communities, will be just dreadful.

"I want to see a simple but elegant change to the legislation: make it voluntary rather than compulsory, allow people to opt in should they wish, and let the industry decide. At a time of economic turmoil and global food chain uncertainty, it would be lunacy to allow this flawed legislation to export our meat production and leave us even more dependent upon imports. Imports not subject to individual ID rules!

"This argument is far from over, and I am resolved to work with everyone and anyone to head this implementation off."