Brexit uncertainty and negotiations around the UK’s third country listing status has delayed plans to use a fixed cut-off date of June 30 to age lambs instead of checking teeth.
Richard Findlay, the NFU’s livestock board chairman, said: “In November last year we received a commitment from Defra ministers that the new regulation would be in place for this season. It is unacceptable that this has now been completely overturned with no indication of when it will be implemented.
“The NFU and other industry organisations have campaigned for over a decade to change the way lambs are aged from dentition checks to a cut-off date, which would improve accuracy and transparency and ensure that farmers are paid fairly for the value of their product. It is needless to say that the delay in implementation is a huge setback for the UK sheep sector and that Defra’s failure to follow through on its commitment is extremely frustrating.”
Mr Findlay added: ““The decision also continues to load costs on to the industry as it spends an estimated £24 million a year on dentition checks, which would be unnecessary if a cut-off date were used. It comes on the back of another Defra announcement that costs of £7.50 per sample for testing fallen stock of cattle over 48 months for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathiy (TSE) will be passed on to the industry from April this year.
“While we understand Defra’s concerns about negotiating the UK’s status as a third country, and the NFU has always said that maintaining free and frictionless trade with the EU is vital for the British food and farming industry, it should never prevent necessary domestic regulatory changes from taking place. Especially when, as is the case here, the European Commission had already indicated it would be happy for the UK to age lambs using a cut-off date.”
Mr Findlay said the NFU will continue to seek assurances from government that the new carcase splitting arrangements will be implemented in time for the 2020 season.