The introduction of EID for sheep was agreed at EU level in late 2003. At that time, 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 that the deadline for the compulsory introduction of EID should be set for 31 December 2009, six years after the original decision was taken. The prevailing view at EU level is that Member States should now proceed with implementation and other Member States have proceeded with implementation of EID on a mandatory basis. I, therefore, have no discretion as regards the date of implementation for electronic identification (EID) and there can be no question of deferring its introduction for a further period.
My Department has circulated a technical document outlining the proposed changes to the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS II) to farm organisations and other stakeholders for comments. This is part of a consultative process, which has been ongoing for some time. The stakeholders have been asked to examine this document carefully and engage with my officials so that whatever revisions are made to the NSIS best suit Irish conditions and minimise the burden on farmers within the parameters of the new legislation.
Our existing system has up until now provided adequate assurances in terms of animal identification and traceability. Indeed, it is partly with that in mind that I have decided to minimise the impact on farmers by confining electronic tagging to mainly breeding sheep. I am also striving however to minimise the change to the existing National Sheep Identification System (NSIS). When the consultation process with stakeholders is completed it is my intention to proceed with the introduction of EID for sheep.