The Farmers’ Union of Wales has accused the Prime Minister of lacking interest in the plight of Welsh sheep farmers after he refused to condemn the EU for deciding to introduce the compulsory electronic identification (EID) of sheep after 2010.
Nearly 400 farmers and politicians have signed a petition on the 10 Downing Street website urging Mr Brown to publicly condemn the EU for its decision which will place UK farmers at an unfair disadvantage compared with importers into the EU who only have to comply with standards well below those required of UK farmers.
The petition, in the name of FUW vice president Glyn Roberts, states that compulsory EID means that the increasing financial and practical burdens placed upon UK farmers will put them at a competitive disadvantage compared with importers into the EU.
Copies of the petition, which calls on the EU to reverse it decision, have been signed by a further 400 FUW members at the union’s 12 county offices throughout Wales.
The petition stresses the technology used for sheep EID has major flaws, including reliability, which brings into question the credibility of the decision.
It adds: "The Government should therefore fight for all the concessions permitted, while making it clear that the actions of the EC are premature, disproportionate, and unjust for the UK sheep industry."
But in a Government response to the petition the demand for the Prime Minister to publicly condemn the EU’s decision has been ignored.
The Government merely admits it is concerned about the disproportionate costs and benefits of individual recording and points out that it has asked the European Commission to review the appropriate Regulation to check whether its objectives are being met in the most cost effective way.
It adds that new rules were agreed in 2003 in a bid to phase in improvements to EU sheep identification and tracking arrangements following the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.
"Defra has worked very closely with the industry since 2003, when the Regulation was first adopted, and will continue to work closely with them with regard to implementation," states the Government’s response.
"They have identified there are practical issues with implementation, and Defra will work with them to develop a system which is as practical as possible and that industry can make work."
Mr Roberts said: "Naturally, we are very disappointed by the Government’s response and the Prime Minister’s apparent refusal to condemn the EU’s decision on this matter.
"It is well established that Ministers from all of UK’s devolved regions are opposed to the Regulation, so why not speak out against the railroading of EID regulations by the EU?
"I fully appreciate that there are negotiations going on behind the scenes, but those should be based on the evidence and rational arguments put forward by the FUW and others over the years and if the Commission and Member States dig their heels in for political, rather than rational reasons, that behaviour should also be criticised.
"There is now widespread opposition to EID amongst sheep farmers throughout the EU, and it is about time somebody pointed out that the majority of EU farming ministers have failed their own farmers.
"Those in power should publicly speak out against this and the many other ridiculous and irrational Regulations we have to face, rather than being afraid to rock the boat."