Macra has consistently been calling for a target for the number of Young farmers actively farming by the end of the next CAP period. With only 6% of active farmers under the age of 35 significant interventions and measures are required. The Strategic plan as submitted did little to drive generational renewal. Macra wants to see 20% of farmers under the age of 35 by 2027.
International evidence shows that young farmers are more productive per unit input and also more environmentally conscious. Given the focus on sustainability and the backdrop of increasing environmental expectations from consumers a rising number of young farmers compliments these demands and expectations.
Increased funding is needed for Land Mobility to facilitate land transfer and arrangements to provide opportunities for young people to access the sector. Access to land has consistently been highlighted as a barrier for entry for young people not only in Ireland but across the EU.
Alongside the issue of access to land, access to finance also remains a key barrier for young people. What is required is specific ringfenced low cost finance for young farmers that requires limited security. Accessing finance allows for investment and improvement at farm level in terms of productivity and also quality of life.
The TAMS scheme has been very successful in providing support for all farmers for investment in farm improvements. However in order to reflect the rising costs of inputs and the need to continually improve and develop farm systems the grant aid support ceiling needed to be risen from 60% to 80% for young farmers to reflect the changing economic environment. Macra have considered this as a missed opportunity to support further development and address the issue of financial capacity for investment on farm.
The recent events across the European continent have highlighted weaknesses in the food production systems across the EU. A refocus on food security across the European union and beyond is needed. As global population grows and demand for food grows policy must reflect this and allow farmers the ability to meet the demand needs. Measures under Eco-Schemes proposed by The Department of Agriculture reflect a policy position that seeks reduction in food productivity as opposed to sustained and developing food production. A reassessment of The CAP and other EU policies such as farm to fork, in order to establish to real effect of these policies on food security is needed. The ambitions of environmental impact of agriculture can be achieved whilst securing secure food systems.