3 July 1998

Passport deadlines concern producers

By Emma Penny

KNOCK-ON effects of missing passport application deadlines and the new cattle movement service are causing concern among producers, according to the NFU.

Although last autumns amnesty – where producers could apply for passports after the deadline without penalty – was successful, producers may not now receive a passport for that animal at all if they miss deadlines, says NFU policy advisor Carol Lloyd.

"There are genuine cases where passport deadlines are missed because of circumstances beyond the producers control. The NFU is putting forward a proposal that a sliding scale of penalties be applied where deadlines are missed, rather than MAFF refusing to give that animal a passport at all, in which case it is probably worthless."

According to Ms Lloyd, MAFF is not optimistic that the sliding scale penalty will be introduced, but it did stress that it would look at each case on its merits, in particular at financial implications of refusing passports where the application deadline had been missed.

"If you are caught out, we would advise stressing to MAFF the reasons for delaying application and the potential effect that not getting a passport would have on your business," she advises.

But management of passport applications will become more critical as the new British Cattle Movement Service comes into force, she warns. "The application deadline is currently 28 days after birth, but that will fall to 15 days when the Cattle Tracing System starts working and will reduce to within seven days of birth after the year 2000."

When the BCMS starts on September 28 new passports will come into force. These are cheque book-style, with pull-out postcards at the back which are sent to Workington every time an animal moves onto or off a holding.

"The new passports should mean less paperwork and sticky labels will replace much of the writing currently required. How-ever, it is vital to ensure passports are correctly completed – if there is a gap or someone has failed to sign, address or date it then it may be invalid and that animal cannot be sold," Ms Lloyd says.

The passport replaces CIDs and CCDs, but like these documents, it must be sent off for every claim. The replacement cost of £50 for a lost passport, or risk of not being allowed to purchase a replacement, mean there are concerns with Post Office service, she admits.

"Producers are also concerned about what constitutes a movement on or off farm. If something is part of your regular farming unit, such as common land or grass lets, then there is no requirement to notify it as a movement on or off the holding. The only other time when movements do not need notifying is where animals are on temporary grazing where you are the sole tenant and cattle are not in contact with other animals."

Anything which is different from the usual farming system, including going to shows or sales, is counted as a movement, so the BCMS must be notified.

"For the first year at least, the postcards for notifying movements are pre-paid, but I am not sure whether that will be the case when the BCMS enters its second year.

"There are agents who are offering to notify the BCMS of movements on and off farm, but there is no licensing system other than ensuring they have the correct software to comply with the BCMS, and ultimately the producer remains responsible for ensuring cattle movements are correct," cautions Ms Lloyd.

Passports will replace CIDs and CCDs, but must be sent off for each claim.