By Isabel Davies

 THE GOVERNMENT is in discussions with the Rural Payments Agency about ways to help farmers who submit late cattle passport applications.

 Since October 2003, the British Cattle Movement Service has insisted that applications for passports must arrive within 27 days of an animal”s date of birth. If an application arrives after the deadline, the animal is registered on the system but is refused a passport.

But junior DEFRA minister Alun Michael has hinted that there could be changes to the rules.

 “Our aim is to establish whether there is any possibility of allowing cattle, which are the subject of a late application, to receive a passport,” wrote the minister in a letter to Lib Dem shadow DEFRA secretary Andrew George.

 “Unfortunately the position is proving rather more difficult to resolve than we had hoped, although there is one potential solution which is gaining acceptance.

 progress

“Discussions with the devolved administrations and legal advisers are still going on. We hope now to make progress quickly.”

Mr George said he believed the problem could be solved if farmers who did not meet the deadline paid a penalty which was equal to the cost of a veterinary inspection certificate and a DNA test. Their animal should then be given a passport so it remains marketable, he said.

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk