Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 22 January 2018

Young 'old' farmers campaign to continue

Group representatives are due to travel to Brussels next week to lobby Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Commission on the issue.
Group representatives are due to travel to Brussels next week to lobby Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Commission on the issue.

Ken Whelan

The 'Old Young Farmers' group is to continue its campaign to regularise anomalies in the farm payment system despite the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney of fresh moves to address their grievances.

The group , which numbers approximately 3,000 farmers under 40 who have been farming for over five years, are now to be designated as farmers who suffer from "specific disadvantage".

Their payments anomalies will be addressed in the new Basic Payment Scheme under the National Reserve either through new entitlements or equivalent top-up payments.

Some of the Young Old Farmers are in receipt of farm payments as low as €28/ha despite expanding their enterprises since they began farming.

The new EU Commission approved "specific disadvantage" category will apply to young farmers who established a holding in 2008 and 2009 and who met all the qualifying criteria.

However, the Young Old Farmers group, while welcoming the Minister's initiative, want the new category back dated to 2005 at least and 2001 at best.

"The new scheme is a step in the right direction but it will not pick up the majority of farmers affected. Ideally the initiative should go back to 2001 but we would accept 2005, with the farmers affected by the anomalies since 2001 being dealt with on an individual basis,'' said group leader Kenneth O'Brien.

"We are talking about the future of jobs in rural Ireland here. Authorities just can't pull the pin on the 'Old Young Farmers' group because the government has to hold onto these farmers. They are the future of Irish agriculture,'' he added.

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He said the campaign at EU level would continue until the group achieved its goals. Group representatives are due to travel to Brussels next week to lobby Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Commission on the issue.

They are being hosted by MEPs Matt Carthy of Sinn Fein and Luke Ming Flanagan (Independent).

Matt Carthy told the Farming Independent that it was surprising how quickly Minister Coveney acted on the issue after the recent Young Old Farmers meeting in Athone which attracted over 700 farmers.

"There was nothing in the correspondence from the minister or his office before hand to indicate that anything was likely to happen. It's amazing what a big meeting of young farmers can do,'' he added.

He welcomed the new category news but said all the grievances of the group should now be fully addressed.

MEP Mairéad McGuiness (FG) said it was vital that the Department of Agriculture established the demand for the young farmer top-up and the size of the new National Reserve.

This would identify what might be allocated to those farmers outside the scope of the payments schemes.

Party colleague Deputy Sean Kyne said the new category would resolve the payment anomaly affecting the Old Young Farmers group and would put them on the same footing as other qualifying young farmers.

Indo Farming