ICSA met with Liam Aylward MEP in Brussels this week to put forward proposals to rescue the sheep sector. Among the key demands were an animal welfare/ quality breeding scheme for sheep farmers, more funding for on-farm investments such as sheep fencing and handling and a special EU fund to promote sheepmeat consumption. The ICSA delegation, which comprised president Malcolm Thompson, general secretary Eddie Punch, sheep chairman Mervyn Sunderland and vice chair Gabriel Gilmartin, also emphasised the need to assist local, small scale abattoirs in order to ensure that local retail and catering outlets can be supplied with local farmers’ produce. The proposals were part of an ICSA submission to a report which Deputy Aylward will be presenting to the European parliament and EU Agriculture committees in 2008. This report is also expected to have a strong impact on the 2008 CAP Health check. According to ICSA sheep chairman, Mervyn Sunderland, sheep farming is the most vulnerable sector in farming. ‘Unlike other sectors, sheep farmers have faced stagnant prices. The recent closing of the farm investment scheme has undermined the Malone report, and unless radical steps are taken to increase demand for lamb in key EU markets, then farmers will continue to exit the sector." ICSA believes that generic promotion of lamb, alongside research and development into making lamb more convenient and consumer friendly, are critical tasks that need EU financial support. While promotion agencies such as Bord Bia and their counterparts in the UK and France are co-operating on generic marketing, the amount of money that they are committing needs to be at least doubled by EU financial support.