EU Sets EID Date

The EU Council of Ministers has agreed on 31 December 2009 as the obligatory implementation date for the introduction of electronic identification (EID) of sheep and goats.

EID was originally due to come into force in 2008, but the move was delayed after an EU Commission report, published on 16 November 2007, concluded that the technology was not yet developed enough and the potential economic cost to the industry was too high.

A compromise proposal was therefore drawn up by the Portuguese presidency and a new date for introduction agreed on by the European Parliament.

Animal Welfare Minister Jeff Rooker said: "Whilst I am aware that the industry needs to make significant changes in order to implement these proposals, securing a delay until 31 December 2009 for implementation is a significant achievement and will give our industry two years longer than was originally agreed to adjust to the introduction of EID.

"We do still have concerns about the cost and practicalities of introducing EID and these are recognised in the Commission's report. We will continue to work in close partnership with industry to discuss the implementation of EID in a way which is practical and industry can make work.

"We will also be seeking further amendments to the Regulation to limit the impact of the introduction of the individual recording requirements which exists for older animals."

Conservative MEPs have called for tagging to be voluntary rather than compulsory and asked for a cost-benefit analysis to be conducted before the system is introduced, arguing that UK farmers will still struggle with the costs in two years time.

Conservative MEP Neil Parish said: "It would be a real burden on UK sheep farmers if this legislation goes through now, even with the slight delay until 2010. We are simply not there yet with the technology needed to make this work.

"Cast ewes are worth only a few pounds, so how can farmers afford to tag them with microchips and purchase expensive readers? It is simply not feasible. The sheer number of sheep in the UK, combined with our specific topography, do not permit us to even contemplate such an astronomically costly system right now."

UK farming unions have also expressed concerns over the costs involved with the legislation. Peter King, NFU chief livestock advisor said: "The NFU is opposed to compulsory introduction of EID in sheep as we believe the cost benefit analysis does not justify the need for individual traceability.

"We have insisted that the European Commission continue with its original proposal to undertake a revised impact assessment before the end of 2009.

"We recognise the potential benefit to the food chain, but farmers cannot continue to produce high-quality, safe lamb below the cost of production."

Defra minister Jeff Rooker said: "Whilst I am aware that the industry needs to make significant changes in order to implement these proposals, securing a delay until 31 December 2009 for implementation is a significant achievement and will give our industry two years longer than was originally agreed to adjust to the introduction of EID.

"We do still have concerns about the cost and practicalities of introducing EID and these are recognised in the Commission's report. We will continue to work in close partnership with industry to discuss the implementation of EID in a way which is practical and industry can make work. We will also be seeking further amendments to the Regulation to limit the impact of the introduction of the individual recording requirements which exists for older animals."

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