Sheep ID Battle Goes To London

27 April 2009
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has today (Monday) met with UK Secretary of State for Agriculture Hilary Benn MP in London.

He was joined by NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren, Vice President Nigel Miller and George Milne from the National Sheep Association to impress upon Mr Benn the efforts underway in Brussels to highlight the potentially hugely negative impacts of the EU plans to individually identify sheep and goats.

Smith has also released a letter from the Polish Minister for Agriculture Tadeusz Nalewajk in which he says "...Taking into account the costs of EID, I agree [with Smith's proposed solution to the package] that making EID optional will meet expectations of sheep breeders in Europe."

Speaking after the meeting, Smith said:

"This was a useful meeting this morning with the UK Minister, and to be fair I believe he does share the concern of the industry and the Scottish government that the individual ID rules, if implemented, carry disproportionate costs to the potential advantages.

"He has been left in no doubt that the industry in Scotland is united as one in our opposition to these proposals. Likewise, I am sensitive to his position that he has inherited a binding legal obligation to implement this package. I think there is genuine common ground between the UK and Scottish governments on this issue, and for my part I will work with anyone to kick these proposals into touch.

"The cross party and cross country MEPs will continue our efforts to highlight the glaring deficiencies in this package, which was agreed to in 2003 and now looks dangerously outdated, and we have been active in pushing other member states to bring this issue up their agenda and build the anti-EID coalition. I am particularly heartened by the response today from the Polish Minister to our joint letter which clearly backs our position.

"There are, of course, ways in which this package could be implemented which will be less damaging than other ways, and it is right and proper that this "Plan B" should be explored thoroughly, but for my part I remain of the view that the UK could and should establish real leadership on this issue. The more we talk about the details of the implementation, the more we risk missing the fact that this package is wrong in principle and will be hugely detrimental to an industry already struggling economically. Poland's backing is extremely heartening and I will keep on fighting this crucial issue."