MACRA na Feirme was among the first to welcome this week’s announcement from Agriculture Minister Michael Creed that the National Reserve will re-open in 2017.
‘This will come as great news to young farmers who want to progress their farming careers,’ a spokesman for Macra stated, ‘It is a very positive signal from the government on the value it places on the development of young farmers and their futures.’
Announcing the allocation of funding for the 2017 National Reserve, the Minister said ‘the National Reserve is a vital resource for providing support to young farmers and new entrants to farming in the crucial years following establishment of the farm holding.’
Following recent consultation between the Department and the Direct Payments Advisory Committee, comprising members of the main farming bodies and agricultural advisory and education providers, it has been decided that a linear cut to the value of all Basic Payment Scheme entitlements will provide funding of just over €5 million to the National Reserve in 2017. This amount is equivalent to the amount of unspent funds under the Young Farmers Scheme in 2015 which was added to the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling
The EU Regulations underpinning the operation of the National Reserve provide for priority access to the mandatory categories of ‘Young Farmer’ and ‘New Entrant to Farming’.
Successful applicants to the National Reserve receive an allocation of entitlements at National Average value or a top-up to the National Average value on entitlements that are below the national average. In addition the Minister announced that the 2017 Young Farmers Scheme will also be available to provide an additional payment to any person who qualifies as a ‘young farmer.’
As the National Reserve fund for 2017 is a very scarce resource the scheme will be targeted specifically at educated young farmers and new entrants to farming who fulfill specific objective criteria. Successful candidates will also be required to have an off-farm income of less than €40,000 in either of the 2015 or 2016 tax years; there is no off-farm income limit for the Young Farmers Scheme.
Macra na Feirme national president Seán Finan commented: ‘The re-opening of the National Reserve in 2017 is something that Macra na Feirme has actively campaigned on, for an extended period of time.’
Speaking of its significance, he added: ‘We believe, if the National Reserve was not opened this year, it’s unlikely it would open for the duration of the current CAP programme. 2016 and 2017 new entrants and young farmers will be catered for with the injection of funding this year from the reallocation of unused young farmers top-up funds.
‘It is now hoped, but remains to be seen, if the replenishment mechanisms including “clawback” on sale of entitlements without land and unused entitlements, will create enough of a budget to accommodate young farmers for years 2018 and subsequent years up to the end of the current CAP programme.’
The National Reserve on-line application form, together with full terms and conditions, will be available when the scheme opens for applications in March 2017.