The Department of Agriculture is set to announce the opening of the 2017 National Reserve this week with interest among young farmers expected to be high.
Last month, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed announced a €5m allocation of funding for the 2017 National Reserve.
The news came following recent consultation between the Department and the Direct Payments Advisory Committee, comprising members of the main farming bodies and agricultural advisory and education providers, it has been decided that a linear cut to the value of all Basic Payment Scheme entitlements will provide funding of just over €5m to the National Reserve in 2017.
This amount is equivalent to the amount of unspent funds under the Young Farmers Scheme in 2015 which was added to the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling
The EU Regulations underpinning the operation of the National Reserve provide for priority access to the mandatory categories of ‘Young Farmer’ and ‘New Entrant to Farming’.
Successful applicants to the National Reserve receive an allocation of entitlements at National Average value or a top-up to the National Average value on entitlements that are below the national average.
Under the National Reserve in 2015, 6,260 farmers - of which 5,570 were young farmers - received an average payment of €9,000 in Basic Payment and Greening.
The National Reserve and the Young Farmers Scheme, together with the value of associated Greening payments, provided for an allocation of Pillar 1 payments in excess of €52m in 2015.
Minister Creed said “the National Reserve is a vital resource for providing support to young farmers and new entrants to farming in the crucial years following establishment of the farm holding”.
In addition the Minister announced that the 2017 Young Farmers Scheme will also be available to provide an additional payment to any person who qualifies as a ‘young farmer’.
However, announcing the scheme last month Minister Creed warned that as the National Reserve fund for 2017 is a very scarce resource the scheme will be targeted specifically at educated young farmers and new entrants to farming who fulfil specific objective criteria.
iI is understood that it has been proposed that applicants to a future National Reserve must have completed their agricultural education. Under the 2015 scheme applicants were given time to commence agricultural education.
There was no National Reserve in 2016 as all available funding had been utilised under the 2015 scheme.
EU Regulations governing the scheme provide that funding for the replenishment of the National Reserve may be obtained by means of surrender of entitlements that remain unused by farmers for two consecutive years and by claw-back derived following the sale of entitlements without land.
The Regulations also provide for the option of applying a linear cut to all farmers' entitlements to fund the National Reserve.
However, this option has been ruled out by farm organisations.
Definition of ‘Young Farmer’
To qualify as a ‘young farmer’ an applicant must meet the following conditions:
Definition of ‘New Entrant to Farming’
A ‘new entrant to farming’ is defined as:
Other eligibility criteria
In line with the requirements under National Reserve schemes since the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme in 2005, successful candidates will be required to meet an appropriate agricultural education qualification standard.
Successful candidates will also be required to have an off-farm income of less than €40,000 in either of the 2015 or 2016 tax years. There is no off-farm income limit for the Young Farmers Scheme.