Young Farmers Scheme not achieving its goal, says former Department of Finance chief

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Claire Fox

Claire Fox

More than 1,000 farms are being lost in Europe each day, as Ireland and other EU states are failing to entice enough young people to enter farming, the European Court of Auditors has said.

The Auditors, led by former Secretary General in the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff told the Joint Committee on Agriculture yesterday that farm numbers have reduced from 14.7m in 2005 to 10m in 2018.

This has resulted in the loss of more than 1,000 farms a day as Europe fails to meet its generational renewal targets under the Young Farmers Scheme.

“The main target of the Young Farmers Scheme is generational renewal but we didn’t achieve this goal, there is no generational renewal. There is no improvement in generational renewal in Irish farming, like in the majority of member states,” said Court member Janusz Wojciechowski.

The Auditors' findings also showed that more than 80pc of farmers in Europe are over 45 and that may be as a result of poorly allocated Young Farmer funds.

Mr Cardiff pointed out that the current Young Farmers Scheme is not enticing young people to enter farming and that examining a way in which older farmers are incentivised to leave farming would be a more beneficial use of EU funding.

“We’ve had decades of young farmer support that hasn’t had much of an effect.  We have to transfer funds that incentivise an actual transfer of the farm,” he said.

Committee member and Fine Gael Senator Tim  Lombard called for a possible reintroduction of a properly funded early retirement scheme that would incentivise older farmers to retire and facilitate young entrants in to agriculture.

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“We once had a retirement scheme which promoted both the younger farmer coming in and the older farmer going out.  It may not be about getting young people in to farming, maybe it’s at the other end . We need some sort of promotion to get older farmers to leave the reins to the younger generation.”

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