The European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) has recently launched a campaign “Future Food Farmers” to raise public awareness of the impending age crisis in European agriculture. The aim of the campaign is to achieve progress on generational renewal in the agricultural sector in the future CAP.
The issue is highly relevant these days as only 6% of agricultural holders in the EU are below the age of 35, while one third are over 65. However, Member States show a great diversity in this issue as Poland has the highest share of young farmers in Europe (12%), while Portugal has the lowest (2%), according to Eurostat data. Neither figure is promising for the future, though.
The ‘young farmers problem’ affects European agriculture in many different ways. Just to mention a few, food security, biodiversity, rural job creation as well as productivity and competitiveness are at stake. Young farmers are faced with significant entry barriers (access to land and credit, investments, etc.), limiting their access to the agricultural sector. However, with some incentives ahead, it is pretty sure that a young farmer is innovative and active enough to invest in Europe’s future instead of surviving in the short run.
The CAP currently has the ‘setting up of young farmers’ measure to provide installation aid to young farmers under the second axis. However, being an optional scheme, this programme has a low take-up rate in Member States. A single premium or interest rate support is also given up to EUR 70,000, co-financed at 50-50%. Some further indirect measures also benefit young farmers such as training and advisory services or measures calling for cooperation between farmers.
The Commission currently proposes to allocate a maximum of 2% of the annual national ceiling for direct payments to young farmers in the future CAP for a maximum of 25 hectares of arable land and 5 years (on condition that s/he has not exercised an agricultural activity in the past 5 years). The main drawback of this proposal is the area and age limit – 25 hectares of arable land is considered a small area in most Member States where agricultural activity can not be effective and profitable and it is also unclear why a former experience in agriculture is a disadvantage. Latest proposals of the Commission indicate that a young farmers scheme might be allocated under both pillars of the CAP, including that the scheme in the first pillar should be of a mandatory nature.
The CEJA is now calling for an installation aid and annual top-up payments to facilitate entry to the sector and help buffer young farmers from market volatility and price fluctuations in their first few fragile years of business. Though these proposals raise the question whether a continuous income support provides an incentive at all, it is evident that young farmers should be treated differently in the beginning.
The campaign has already been supported by a number of leading politicians and scientists – if you agree with the idea, just sign the pledge. The number of pledges will symbolise the magnitude of support to the CAP trilogue (Dacian Ciolos, Simon Coveney and Paolo de Castro) for whom the results of the campaign will be presented in the first quarter of 2013.
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