The Farmers’ Union of Wales remains strongly opposed to the controversial introduction next year of electronic identification (EID) of sheep, the union’s president said today.
"We oppose this legislation and are committed to fighting it until the bitter end," Gareth Vaughan told county delegates during the union’s quarterly grand council meeting in Aberystwyth.
He said among the many topics of conversation throughout Wales’ rural communities, the subject of sheep EID was top of the agenda. "It is the one subject that is guaranteed to get our blood pressure up.
"And this message was recently made clear by the chairman of the union’s hill farming committee at a recent meeting with top officials from the European Commission and the Joint Research Council.
"However, unlike other farming organisations I do not intend to raise expectations unnecessarily on this issue. Our chances of winning a reprieve grow ever dimmer and, with January 2010 rapidly approaching, we must face up to the possibility that we will not receive the support from other Member States that is needed to reverse the decision.
"The crux of the matter is that we have been successful in persuading the Rural Affairs Minister in Cardiff that this law is impractical, and we have also persuaded Defra Minister Hilary Benn not to support EID.
"But unless Ministers from other EU countries start to recognise these concerns, there is nothing further our own governments can do.
"Nothing short of a massive U-turn by the majority of the EU's 27 Agriculture Ministers will stop this legislation coming in next year, and we therefore need to start thinking about how we will cope if the battle is lost.
"We have already won a two-year delay, and concessions that would make the legislation far less burdensome, and following tough negotiations with the Commission, there may be some more commonsense in the pipeline.
"I therefore say again, that we do not intend to give up our fight - but we will not mislead our members and give them false hope. Burying our heads in the sand, as other organisations are doing, is simply not an option - if we did that we would be failing our members."