A yellow card system that gives farmers a chance to correct tagging problems should be introduced by the Department of Agriculture before it changes over to a flat fine of €250 for breaches in animal identification regulations.
Last week, the Irish Farmers Journal exclusively revealed that the Department was considering the introduction of fixed penalty notices from January 2023 for serious breaches of animal identification rules.
The fixed notice regime, if introduced, will replace the current system whereby penalties are levied on farmers’ Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements under cross compliance.
However, ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell warned that the farm body would not support such a move unless there was a fair yellow card system in place that gave farmers a chance to correct a reasonable level of missing tags or other shortcomings.
“[The] ICSA believes that we have made progress on the issue of the yellow card. The discussions revolve around a points system, which we need to examine before we can make a definite statement on whether the Department has moved enough to provide fair play for farmers,” Farrell said.
“It is vital that any penalty is proportionate and takes account of the reality that tags wear and fall out. We have engaged with the Department and we have insisted that farmers should be shown more fair play than happened under the old cross compliance system,” the ICSA representative added.
ICMSA deputy president Denis Drennan accepted that the one-off fine matters for many farmers, but he cautioned that “unscrupulous individuals” might be willing to take the chance with a one-off fine.
“We have to be careful about anything that might tempt certain elements to decide that deliberate non-compliance is worth the gamble,” said Drennan.
Under the new CAP, which comes into force in January 2023, livestock identification and registration is no longer included in cross compliance inspections, as it has been removed as a conditionality for the programme.
However, the Department insisted that livestock owners will still be required to comply with EU animal traceability regulations and that inspections on tagging and animal registers will continue.
Failure to pay the new fines could result in a court appearance for farmers and an increased risk of further inspections, the farm organisations have been told.
Breaches of regulations around livestock tagging and identification have traditionally generated most farmer fines under cross compliance.
A total of 975 cattle and sheep farmers were fined in 2020 as a result of animal tagging and registration issues.