Changes in criteria severely limiting applications to National Reserve says Fianna Fail

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Fianna Fáil Agriculture and Food Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has severely criticised Minister Creed for changing the criteria needed to access direct payments under CAP this year. 

The Minister is now insisting that young farmers must have completed a recognised FETAC level 6 course in agriculture before they can apply for funding.  Up until now farmers were eligible to apply once they had taken up a place on a relevant agricultural course.

Deputy McConalogue said he along with a number of my colleagues, have been contacted by young farmers who are extremely worried about the impact of this change. 

"This new rigid criteria means that many of them will now not be eligible for essential payments under the 2017 National Reserve and Young Farmers’ Scheme.

“This move is inherently unfair and the fact that the Minister is attempting to hide behind EU eligibility criteria is a damning indictment of the contempt he holds for young farmers across the country," McConalogue said.

According to the Donegal TD, under, CAP Regulation 1307/2013 Member States have flexibility in defining the eligibility criteria for young farmers, and the Minister’s decision to change the educational requirements is questionable as he says it only serves to exclude young farmers from important funding streams.

“Minister Creed must reconsider the changes he has implemented. I am calling on him to ensure that those who are currently enrolled in agriculture courses are included and to extend the upcoming deadline for those in this situation to facilitate them in making applications.

“Fianna Fáil understands the importance of sustaining and supporting the next generation of farmers. Farming faces a serious demographic challenge as the bulk of the agricultural workforce grows older and retires and it is essential that young men and women are encouraged to continue working on the land," he said.

The Minister for Agriculture recently 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.

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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.

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