Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 23 June 2017

Forgotten farmers face uphill battle in Brussels

Diverse profile of young farmers group is working against them at EU level

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed. Photo: Tony Gavin
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The diverse nature of the so-called 'forgotten farmers' has become a major stumbling block in their ongoing battle for EU recognition.

The group, made up of 3,900 farmers aged under 40 years, do not qualify for crucial CAP supports aimed at young farmers because they started farming before 2008.

The Department of Agriculture previously stated that it would cost more than €12m to increase existing entitlements to the national average for this cohort.

As part of the programme for Government, a commitment was made to seek recognition from the EU Commission for forgotten farmers as "a group with specific disadvantage" under the national reserve.

However, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed admits that little progress has been made with no additional funding secured to date.

"The forgotten farmers is a difficult one. I have been in contact with the Commissioner on this and it's like all things, if it was easy to resolve, it would have been done long ago."

In 2015, a previous cohort called the 'old young farmers', who started farming in 2008 or 2009 but did not benefit from installation aid, or the young farmer group of the national reserve, could qualify for national reserve aid as "a group suffering from specific disadvantage".

Although the 'old young farmers' were successful, Mr Creed says recognition for the 'forgotten farmers' is proving much more challenging.

"This cohort are more diverse. The commission says to deal with them, they must have suffered from a 'specific disadvantage' but this group is not homogeneous.

Sympathy

"Some of them are age disqualified, some are education disqualified, there is a myriad of different reasons so they don't fit into a cohesive unit," said Minister Creed while addressing ICSA members at the organisation's annual AGM.

"We will continue to engage with the Commission on it but it's complicated. I do have sympathy for them. The other 'old young farmer' group were specific and they were caught in a position where the rug was pulled from under them and they were dealt with."

Michael Fitzmaurice, Independent TD for Roscommon/Galway, says the forgotten farmers are being ignored by the Government.

"There is a clear commitment on this issue in the Programme for Government, yet here we are just a few months away from the applications for the single farm payment and there has been no announcement from Minister Creed on this issue.

"Despite many great speeches on the matter from various quarters, nothing has been done. Are we witnessing the same carry on here as we have seen with grain farmers, where there is a nod and a wink and nothing happening?" he said.


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