EID victory in sight

UK farming groups are celebrating after EU ministers agreed to review plans to introduce compulsory electronic identification (EID) and the individual recording of sheep.

Ministerial reconsideration of the issue is the only viable vehicle to overturn the proposed rules, which would make sheep farming unviable for many producers across the UK. The decision to reconsider comes after sustained campaigning by the National Farmers Union (NFU), NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).

It is understood that a paper by the Hungarian government - calling for the abandonment of current mandatory demands to electronically record the individual identities of sheep every time they move - has been officially tabled for discussion for the Council of Agricultural Ministers meeting in Brussels on 23 and 24 March.

After meetings attended by the four farming organisations in Brussels this week, it is believed that the German government will join the UK and Irish governments in support of this at the Council of Ministers meeting. Dialogue is continuing at home and across Europe to secure as much support as possible to overturn the regulation.

In a joint statement, the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the IFA, said: "This is a critical breakthrough. Commission officials have been implementing the regulation as it was previously agreed by Ministers, so the only way to avoid these unworkable and unnecessary regulations is to get EU Ministers to revisit the regulation.

"All hopes are now on the Council of Ministers meeting in 10 days' time. The move from the Hungarian government offers the opportunity for our own governments to turn their words of support for us into meaningful and robust action.

"The unions will be in Brussels for the Agriculture Council meeting, but there is a huge amount of work required in the run-up, both by our own governments and ourselves, to secure as much political support across the rest of Europe as we can.

"This breakthrough has been the result of tireless work on this issue and discussion with our European counterparts. However, over the next few days, this work will enter its most important phase. Ministers must realise that failing to overturn these proposals is not an option."

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