The independent MEP Marian Harkin, who represents 15 counties of the Midlands-Northwest constituency, welcomed the proposal put forward by European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan to permit member states a degree of individual flexibility to cater for young farmers.
Up until now there has been a group of more than 2,000 young farmers in Ireland, dubbed ‘forgotten farmers’, who are under the age of 40 but do not meet the specification to qualify for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding.
Harkin said: “The current definition of a young farmer restricts payments to those who are in their first five years of farming.
“However, many of the forgotten farmers are farming more than five years but for one reason or another were unable to access Installation Schemes etc in previous rounds of CAP.
“They now find themselves out in the cold, discriminated against and unable to compete on a level playing field with their neighbours and other farmers receiving EU single farm payments.”
Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture ruled out catering for this group of farmers because, according to the law, forgotten farmers did not meet the required young farmer specifications.
This left the Department unable to remedy the situation, despite calls on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to address the issue.
This week, it looks as though Commissioner Hogan is providing an avenue for ‘forgotten farmers’ to receive CAP funding.
However, it remains to be seen if this proposal will be put formally in place by the EU and adopted by the Irish Department of Agriculture.