What is a young farmer? Under 41, actively farming and educated?

What's a young farmer?
What's a young farmer?
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Just 6.5pc of the EU's farmers are classified as 'young' or under 35 and the main young farmers organisation in Europe, CEJA, is calling for a doubling of the ambition for generational renewal in farming.

Now CEJA is calling for the EU to re-define what a young farmer is, increasing the age to be 'under 41', actively farming and with a required level of agricultural education, to ensure all CAP measures are 'young farmer proofed'.

It says the current definition of active farmer needs to be strengthened, improved and remain mandatory throughout the EU to better target supports.

"A proper definition on active farmer will help generational renewal, will drive structural change and aid land mobility."

It says that pensioners should not be able to receive both direct payments and a statutory pension and that there should be a minimum level of agricultural education or experience required to be considered an active farmer.

It also says at EU level, there has to be a more comprehensive negative list of those excluded from being an active farmer, in which income levels and labour time are included.

"If the European agricultural sector is to have a future, an EU-wide strategy for generational renewal for young people is imperative. In order to achieve this, all measures have to be young farmer proofed."

To this end, the definition of a “young farmer”: an active farmer; under 41 years of age; and has the required level of agricultural education.

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CEJA's CAP proposal, which was created under the watch of its then President Irishman Alan Jagoe, is focused on three key areas: generational renewal, sustainable economic support and progressive and proactive environmental measures.

It says ring-fencing the budgetary allocation for young farmers in the legislative proposals is a fair starting point but the proposed amount will be insufficient in fulfilling the Policy’s objective of generational renewal, it says, and more ambition must be shown at EU level so that Member States can ensure young farmers are sufficiently provided for.

It says that proposals to ring-fence 2pc of CAP monies on national envelopes for direct payments to target young farmers through complementary income support and installation aid, is not enough. According to CEJA, only eight Member States will be pushed by the ring-fencing to do better than they currently are for young farmers.

The organisation, whose current Vice President in Roscommon farmer and former Macra na Feirme President Sean Finan, CEJA fully supports the simplification process of the CAP; however this should not be an argument to introduce ineffective measures, it says.

"Farmers must be the main beneficiaries of CAP simplification, with lower administrative and financial burdens. CAP payments should be paid within the year of application."

According to the organisation, the two biggest barriers for young farmers are access to land and to credit.

It says to address structural and regional challenges in an innovative way, funding for national or regional organisations engaged in promoting and facilitating matching services between young and old farmers should be available through a Land Mobility Service.

These organisations should be tasked with actively promoting succession planning, facilitating and encouraging various sustainable collaborative arrangements such as partnerships, share farming, contract rearing and leasing between farmers.

This, it says, would allow allow older farmers a chance to step back or retire and allow themselves a lesser work load while assisting young farmers in getting established.

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