Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has welcomed today's vote of the European Parliament to allow farmers, on a voluntary basis, to use a harmonised system of electronic identification for cattle: Member States have the option to make the system compulsory, but only after consultation with the beef industry.
Attempts by some MEPs to make the system compulsory after ten years across the EU were defeated; the Commission will produce a study on the effectiveness of the system after five years, and a recital (a statement without the full force of law but designed to guide interpretation of it) made it clear that farmers should not receive "penalty payments" for faults which are the responsibility of the technology.
"It's good to see that the Commission have learnt some of the lessons of EID for sheep and goats.
"We argued that introducing a pan-EU mandatory system immediately was likely to be costly, lead to technological difficulties, and contribute little added value to disease control, all at the cost of ill-will from our farmers who end up having such a system foisted upon them. That's why it's important that the same mistakes are not made with EID for cattle - under this proposal, EID will be a bottom-up farmer driven process, with take-up fundamentally shaped by whether farmers find it a useful technology to ensure traceability and add financial value to their herds. Such a lead-in period will hopefully also give us the time to get the technology right.
"The Parliament proposal now goes to negotiations with the Council, and I'm confident that we can get a result which works for our farmers."