THE impact of the electronic identification of sheep on farmers was spelt out to European Commission officials visiting Penrith mart.

The National Farmers’ Union and National Sheep Association both raised sheep farmers’ concerns.

The main problem areas include cross-compliance and the need for a proportionate approach, and potential problems associated with identifying and recording the historic flock.

The NFU also stressed the need for the Commission to look at further concessions such as only applying EID tags once an animal leaves its holding of birth.

The officials saw at first hand the impracticalities of recording EID in the high output, pressurised environment of a working livestock market.

Alistair Mackintosh, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “British farmers have tried their best, and are doing their utmost, to comply with this legislation since it was introduced.

“The Single Farm Payment is the lifeline for British livestock farmers and it is unacceptable that this payment could potentially be compromised by a lack of flexibility and recognition of the problems within the regulations.”

He stressed the need for the EU to recognise that technology could not guarantee 100pc accuracy all the time, and to ensure that “a practical, sensible and proportionate system is taken forward.”