Sheep Event 2010: EU commissioner invited to see impact of EID

Farm minister Jim Paice has invited EU health and consumer policy minister John Dalli to visit England and Scotland to see for himself the teething troubles of sheep EID.

Speaking at the official opening of NSA Sheep Event 2010 in Malvern, Mr Paice said he was well aware of the potential penalties facing producers from EID shortfalls. “If, as the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association suggests, [EID] readers are only picking up 96% of tags, I do not want to hear of farmers losing entitlement to SFP because they cannot identify the other 4%,” he said.

The invitation to commissioner Dalli aims to highlight the practicalities of EID in a sheep sector as diverse at Britain’s. “I doubt he knows the practicalities, for example, of drafting large numbers off uplands where a few [sheep] may get left behind,” said Mr Paice. “He has not ruled out coming.”

England and Scotland may not be alone in voicing concerns in Brussels over EID, he added. “It has appeared on the agenda [for EU farm ministers]. I didn’t put it there, but I believe Germany has,” he told reporters.

However, Mr Paice – a former sheep farmer himself – was unequivocal about EID being here to stay. “It is in regulation. The law is the law, farmers must adhere to it, that’s the reality.”

While that will be little comfort for producers ahead of the autumn draft of store and breeding sheep, Mr Paice did explain he was looking to protect upland farm incomes as future legislation is formulated.

“I believe we need to find another mechanism for delivering more money to the uplands. Income foregone does not value the work done by farms undertaking changes that deliver public good, such as water storage.”

The minister also said he was about to act on bovine TB. Mr Paice intends to use the Badger Protection Act as the legal tool to tackle the disease, unlike the Welsh, who proposed a trial cull under the Animal Health Act.

“I believe we have enough science. We don’t know everything, but we do know all we need to know to cull in hot-spot areas,” he said. “I don’t want a judicial review but opponents may well call for one. I am prepared for that.”

More recent monitoring of the original Krebs trial areas suggested the positive impact on TB was now considerably stronger than initial studies showed, he added.

• For full coverage of the 2010 NSA Sheep Event click here.