26 October 2001
MEPs back sheep cash rise
By Philip Clarke, Europe editor
EURO-MPS have endorsed calls for a rise in the new flat-rate sheep premium when farm ministers meet to decide the issue next month.
Debating the impending sheep reform in Strasbourg, MEPs voted for a new premium for next year of 30 (18.47) a head.
That is higher than the 21 (12.93) a head being proposed by the EU commission and eclipses the 10.8 (6.65) a head forecast for this year.
They also called for an Less Favoured Area supplement of 9 (5.54) a head compared with the 7 (4.30) a head proposed.
And they suggested that payments for milk-sheep producers should be the same as for meat producers.
Another amendment would see the first 100 ewes excluded from stocking rate calculations for extensification premium.
Labour MEP Gordon Adam, who prepared the report, said the current system was “manifestly unsatisfactory”.
Sheep farmers incomes had fallen behind other sectors while the method of calculating the premium was “statistically suspect”.
Irish Farmers Association president Tom Parlon said it was a “major breakthrough” in the quest for more support for sheep producers.
Some observers believe that, by going for such a big increase in the commissions proposal, the MEPs may have lost credibility.
The council will be mindful of the need to watch the budget, while the commissions proposal has been designed to keep costs under control.
Significantly, however, the parliaments budget committee believes there are funds available to pay for such an increase.
“It is my opinion that there are sufficient funds to meet this request,” said committee member and Irish MEP, John McCartin.
Farm ministers will make a final decision in Brussels on 19 November.
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