I have raised the extensification premium with the European Commission on a number of occasions in recent years. The Commission has refused to exclude sheep from the calculation of stocking density for the extensification premium because its claims that to do so would introduce a new inequity between beef producers who also raise sheep and beef producers who rear cattle only. More recently I raised the sheepmeat regime anomalies at the November Council of Agriculture Ministers.
The European Commission has now commenced a review of the sheepmeat regime and one of the consultants carrying out the review visited Ireland recently at my Department's invitation. The consultant had detailed discussions with my Department and was given a very full analysis of both the inadequacies of the sheep regime and the manner in which it could be adapted to better suit Ireland's needs. During his visit, the consultant also met with the sheep monitoring committee and thus received the views of the producers and processors, as well as Teagasc and academic interests, on how the regime might be amended.
I also visited France recently to seek the support of the French Minister for Agriculture for a favourable reform of the EU sheepmeat regime and will continue to seek support from France and any other member state where there might exist a common position on the sheep regime.