Young Farmers Central to Policy Reform13 April 2012
EU - Addressing the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) yesterday in Brussels, Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said that he wants to make Young Farmers central to the post-2013 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The percentage of European farmers under the age of 35 decreased from 8.5 per cent in 2003 to 6.1 per cent in 2007.
Through the CAP reform, the European Commission has proposed a new five year top up payment, additional to the Single Farm Payment for farmers under the age of 40.
Mr Ciolos said that over the last 10 years, Europe has lost almost three million farmers. This, he said, demonstrates how important it is to put a proactive policy in place at a European level to support new farmers in agriculture. He said the CAP reforms would provide financial support with an installation subsidy and facilitate access to bank loans.
No level playing field for new entrants
Scottish MEP, Alyn Smith said: "Encouraging younger people, with their skills, enthusiasm and innovative mentality into farming is vital for the future of our food production and the vitality of the rural economy. Aside from the simple fact that we will need new people to eventually take over the existing farm acreage, younger farmers are also more likely to take risks and diversify into new fields of enterprise, such as renewable energy and tourism, all of which broadens the revenue base of the farm and makes it more financially secure and protected against the volatility of markets.
"The real disadvantage for young farmers lies in the inequitable and unfair system of distribution of direct payments. It is simply unjust that payments should be based on a historical reference from a decade ago, long before most young farmers started, making for an unlevel financial playing field.
"It is also unfair that, in lieu of an adequate active farmer definition, these payments can then be traded to land investors, keeping them out of the hands of new entrants and further widening that financial gulf.
CEJA President Joris Baecke said to MEPs and the Commissioner yesterday: "The future of agriculture is in your hands. We cannot wait another five years for these crucial measures, or there won’t be any European farmers left for the CAP to cover. We have highlighted the importance of the problem and proposed the appropriate solution: you must now ensure that this reform opportunity is not missed, so as to secure a competitive, productive and sustainable future for European agriculture.”