Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Land access is still the biggest obstacle for young farmers

Macra CAP 2020 report calls for mandatory start-up aid package for under-40s

Macra President Sean Finan.
Macra President Sean Finan.
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

More than 40pc of young farmers say access to land remains the biggest obstacle to establish or expand their farms, a new Macra na Feirme CAP 2020 report has found.

The farm organisation, which today launches its 'CAP 2020 Young Farmer Roadmap for Generational Renewal', is calling for a "mandatory young farmer top-up" for all farmers up to the age of 40, and the abolition of the five-year rule, to ensure equal treatment and access for all.

Generational renewal is one of the European Commission's key priorities in the upcoming CAP reform. Other priorities include greater market resilience and more sustainable agricultural production.

The Macra policy, which focused on generational renewal, was developed after a national consultation process with around 1,000 young farmers.

Macra are the first farm organisation to gather public views on upcoming CAP reform.

Findings show 44pc say land is the main barrier to their farming ambitions, with access to finance the next biggest stumbling block at 35pc.

Macra president, Sean Finan, believes a start up aid measure, targeted toward offsetting establishment costs and capital inputs, should be introduced across all member states as part of the Rural Development Programme.

"Access to land remains the biggest barrier and there needs to be a mandatory start up aid package. We are one of only four countries across the EU that doesn't offer a start up aid scheme," he said.

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The policy paper recommends that qualification criteria for start up aid should to be "similar" to the 'young farmer-new entrant' definition.

This would include recipients being under the age of 40, having commenced farming within a defined time frame. They would also have completed a farm development business plan and agricultural education.

Five-year rule

However, the policy, presented in Brussels last week, raises concerns over the current 'five year rule', which Mr Finan claims has produced "two tiers" of young farmers. More than 70pc of young farmers surveyed called for the abolition of the five year rule.

"There are two cohorts of young farmers, the 'young farmers' and the 'older young farmers' and they are competing with each other under the current CAP for levels of grant aid.

"If you are in the first five years of establishing your holding you're eligible for a young farmer top up and a 60pc grant within TAMS, they are two direct benefits. Whereas if you are outside the five year rule at the moment you are not eligible for young farmer top up and access to grants is limited," he said.

"We are creating two tiers of young farmers as a result of having a five year rule and that's why we want to see it abolished as part of the next CAP programme," he said.

Macra's CAP policy for post 2020 also calls for a continuously funded national reserve.


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