BY BRIAN MOORE
YOUNG Farmers are looking for more recognition and extra supports to be included in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2020 negotiations.
Several young West Cork farmers travelled to Mallow last week to have their voices heard and their concerns for the future noted at a consultation meeting, organised by Macra and the Farmers Journal,.
‘Is it fair to receive a pension and direct payments?’ dairy farmer Patrick McCarthy, from Ballydehob, asked. ‘Macra has long been fighting for the definition of an active farmer to be applied. You can be a landowner but not a farmer and we feel that CAP 2020 should focus on helping farmers, be they young or old, who are productive and are producing food as efficiently as possible.’
Macra na Feirme president Sean Finan wants more emphasis put on farmers who are actively working their land. ‘Through our involvement with CEJA, supported by IFAC, we have begun exploratory discussions in Brussels on CAP 2020. During these discussions, young European farmers have asked if older farmers should continue to receive a direct payment as well as a statutory state pension,’ Mr Finan said.
‘Macra actively encourages young farmers into the industry and firmly believes every support necessary should be made available to them. However, Macra also believes that, while encouraging new entrants, financial provision must be made in CAP 2020 for the “young at heart” farmer. Therefore, those involved in farming throughout Ireland should ask themselves, is it sustainable that a farmer who reaches retirement age is financially better off through receipt of a direct payment and a pension once they reach eligibility?’
Suckler farmer Tommy Moyles, from Ardfield, also wants to see more active farmers rewarded for their work: ‘If a basic payment is used again, then a rolling reference year would be a good move as the active farmer would be rewarded,’ Tommy said.
‘While young farmer top-ups have been good, access to the National Reserve has proved frustrating, to say the least. Basing payments on what happened on farms in 2000 to 2002 won’t be acceptable in 2020.
‘Political instability will prove a threat to CAP funding, so farmers will have to be aware of that. A higher value will be put on environmental enhancement rather than food production in the upcoming reforms. Payments will more likely be results-based rather than the current format.’
However, former Young Farmer of the Year and Nuffield Scholar John Buckley told The Southern Star that, while more young people need to be encouraged into the industry, older farmers still have a lot to contribute as well. ‘As every year goes by, the age profile of our farmers are getting older. The industry is attracting less and less young people.
‘The next CAP needs to continue the support of young farmers and needs to be more inclusive than that of the current CAP,’ John said. ‘I feel it is not as simple as giving older farmers an ultimatum between a basic payment and the State pension.
‘This group of people have worked hard all their lives and brought Irish agriculture to where it is today. Young farmers have a lot to learn from this group of farmers.’