Brussels will reconsider EID proposals

EU farm minsters have agreed to revisit proposals on Electronic Identification of sheep, rekindling hopes that EID may yet be shelved.

EID is scheduled for introduction on 1 January 2010, but the whole policy will now be re-examined when EU ministers meet later this month.

NFU Brussels assistant director Dawn Howard said negotiations were entering “uncharted territory”.

This is an important step which could see the whole issue getting referred back to the EU Commission. It is, however, uncertain how long this would take, said Ms Howard.

The success of getting EID and individual recording of sheep re-examined rested on the shoulders of individual states, said Ms Howard.

And she reported that, after meetings with farming unions this week, other states were beginning to raise concerns.

The unions believe a paper by the Hungarian government calling for abandonment on current mandatory demand to record indentification of sheep electronically had been officially tabled for the Council of Agricultural Ministers meeting in Brussels on the 23-24 March.

“The Hungarians are concerned over the economic aspect as they don’t think they will be able to afford it. This is an increasing concern among other states too,” said Ms Howard.

Currently the German, Irish and Austrians as well as the UK sheep industries are strongly opposed to EID and individual recording of sheep, but to get this reviewed support is ideally needed from a few more member states,” Ms Howard said.

“We are hoping maybe the Greeks and may be the Swedish may get behind us on this as they have also raised concerns. But it’s unlikely we will get any support from Spain, France, Italy or the Netherlands as they have already heavily invested in EID,” she added.

The pressure is now on Hilary Benn and other EU farming ministers to vote for these proposals to be reviewed at the meeting in just over a week’s time. And according to Ms Howard the indication is, Hilary Benn will be sympathetic toward this.

Although this is welcome news, National Sheep Association’s Peter Morris warned, it was important not to create a false sense of victory at this early stage.

“Just because the issue is possibly being brought back to the table it does not mean to say that enough member states will support it to have the regulation stopped in its tracks.

“We have a chink of light, but these rules are so far advanced the spotlight is now on Hilary Been to do all he can to stop these regulations.”