THE IFA has disclosed that Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith has reaffirmed his decision to ring-fence €18 million in unused Common Agricultural Policy funds for the sheep sector and that it will be paid out in 2010.
Following a meeting with Mr Smith in Dublin, the IFA said the minister explained he was finalising payment details and arrangements and will make an announcement by the end of this month.
IFA president John Bryan said the sheep sector is vitally important to 30,000 farmers across the 26 counties. It has an output value of €250m of which €166m are export earnings.
Sheep committee chairman James Murphy said an early announcement on the €18m in unused funds and €8m allocated grant aid for fencing and handling facilities would be an important move to halt the fall in ewe numbers as producers face into a new season.
Mr Murphy said he told Mr Smith the IFA is opposed to compulsory electronic identification (EID) for sheep.
However, Mr Smith recently told Noel J Coonan, TD, in a written reply to a Dáil question that the introduction of EID for sheep was agreed at EU level in 2003 but it was agreed to defer the implementation date until January 2008.
The Council of Agriculture Ministers revisited this issue in December 2007 when it was agreed the deadline for the compulsory introduction of EID should be set for December 31, 2009, six years after the original decision was taken.
“Regretfully, there is not sufficient support among other member states and none from the European Commission for any further rollback in relation to the date for the mandatory introduction of EID,” he said.
Mr Smith said the prevailing view at EU level was that member states should proceed with its implementation. Other member states have proceeded with it on a mandatory basis.
Mr Smith said that all lambs intended for slaughter and under 12 months old can now be exempted from EID.
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