Plans under the Common Agricultural Policy reform proposals to assist young farmers who have been farming for more than five years to build a viable farming enterprise were queried in the Dáil by Donegal North East Fianna Fáil Deputy Charlie McConalogue.
“As the Minister is aware, the agreement on which he signed off in Brussels confined a definition of ‘young farmers’ to those who have started farming now or any time within the past five years,” he said. “That is my understanding of it. There is a significant category of farmers who are under the age of 30 or in their early thirties who have been farming for more than five years, many of whom are in receipt of very low single farm payments. If we are serious about trying to keep young farmers in farming - it is not only about attracting in new farmers which we must do - we have to provide a viable future for those who are already in the industry. I do not see how the Minister’s proposals are doing that. What are his plans in this respect?”
In reply, Minister Simon Coveney said the cut-off point is farmers who have come into farming in the past five years and farmers who were under the age of 40. They will get a payment for up to five years as long as they remain under the age of 40.
“I thought that was a reasonable compromise and balance,” he said. “We fought hard for it. Many countries did not want this to be a mandatory measure but because of the stand taken by Ireland and a number of other countries, along with the Commissioner I might add, this is now a mandatory measure across the European Union for all countries, including Ireland.”
However, Deputy McConalogue said he disagreed with the Minister that this is a reasonable proposal. “He has said that 6% of farmers are under the age of 35. He outlined that he has confined the young farmer categorisation to those who are under the age of 40 and who have just started farming now or within the past five years. He has admitted that he has made no effort or no provision for those who are under the age of 35 and who have been farming for more than five years.”