Ahead of the next member state meeting with the EU Commission on 20 July the EU Commission has circulated this document concerning the derogation for free range producers affected by avian influenza restrictions.
The Commission has pulled together the various discussions with member states in an attempt to reach a compromise and has proposed the following:
- The 12-week derogation is extended to 16 weeks without any additional requirement (e.g. no requirement for outdoor protected area);
- The derogation applies on a per flock basis (previously this applied on a per farm basis);
- The clock starts ticking for the subsequent flock when it is housed (from 17 weeks) and not when the hens lay their first egg. The Commission argues that it would be difficult to define the date of first egg;
- After 16 weeks eggs would be downgraded to barn;
- The proposal for wintergardens/verandas has been dropped.
- If member states agree with the proposal at their 20 July meeting, the Commission is expected to proceed with a delegated act, which could enter in to force before the Christmas season.
A Housing Order in England commenced on 6 December 2016 and ended on 28 February 2017 (12 weeks) for flocks outside of the Higher Risk Areas (HRAs). For free range flocks in HRAs the Housing Order ended on 13 April (just over 18 weeks).
The NFU said the proposal from the EU Commission was “somewhat short of our position and represents a typical compromise. It is however an improvement on the current position and introduces some flexibility. We continue to meet with Defra to promote the NFU position and also to raise awareness of free range poultry meat producers.”