14 January 2000
Beef leader urges electronic tagging

By Alistair Driver

A LEADING beef industry spokesman has called for a nationwide electronic tagging system to reduce the morass of red tape currently choking the industry.

National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said the excessive level of paperwork the biggest issue facing British farming at the moment.

The situation has worsened considerably with the reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy under Agenda 2000, he said.

The difficulties facing farmers have been illustrated this week by the confusion over the new Beef Slaughter Premium Scheme.

To be eligible for payment under the scheme, worth around 17/head, cattle must have been resident at the claimants farm for two months prior to slaughter.

But farmers who bring cattle back to farms unsold from market must keep the animals on their holding for another two months to be eligible for the scheme.

“This is another example of inflexibility being thrust on farmers and money being taken away,” said Mr Forster.

He is convinced something must be done sooner rather than later over the whole issue of red tape.

“One positive step would be to reduce the duplication in the paperwork coming from MAFF, the British Cattle Movement Service and the Intervention Board.

“Another would be to negotiate a reduction in the number of different claims farmers have to make at the next review of the CAP.”

The most important move would be to introduce a nationwide electronic tagging system, of the sort already in place in Northern Ireland, said Mr Forster.

He admits this would be a massive project requiring co-operation across the whole of the industry and a big start-up cost.

But once in place it would make everyones life a lot easier and would enable huge financial savings.

The system would involve scanning systems at every livestock market and auction in the country, which would be linked up to a single computer database.

All cattle movements would be automatically recorded.

“In Northern Ireland farmers do not have to apply for the slaughter premium. It is paid automatically as a result of the electronic system.”