Young farmers cannot allow themselves to be “locked out” of a career in farming by generational renewal support measures deemed by Macra na Feirme as inadequate, MEP Chris MacManus has said.
MacManus reiterated the view expressed by the young farmers’ group this week after the European Commission published its summary of CAP strategic plans, citing Ireland among those member state allocating the least funds to younger farmers.
The MEP called on the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, to push back approval of Ireland’s CAP strategic plan until such time that the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue amends the proposal to increase the funding levels available to entice and keep young people in the agricultural sector.
“President Keane rightly highlighted that Ireland is an outlier in this context and even the European Commission is concerned,” said MacManus this week.
“We must not allow them to be locked out of making a career on the land by poor Government policy.
“In support of our young farmers, I will be contacting the European Commission to demand that they engage with the Irish Government to address its lack of ambition on generational renewal,” he stated.
The Midlands-Northwest MEP cited National Farm Survey statistics on farm ownership and farmer demographics as painting a picture of an aging sector in need of enhanced generational renewal.
The next generation of farmers has the knowledge and capabilities needed to boost the sector above its current levels, he said.
“The trends are only going one way and it is not a positive one. The Teagasc farm survey preliminary results, released earlier this week, show that the average farmer age has moved from 55 to 59 years old, since 2016,” commented the Sinn Féin MEP.
“Farming is a difficult and physical job and the age profile of farmers will play a role in workplace accidents. Until farmers are ready to retire, we need to be properly incentivising farmer partnerships and preparing younger people to take over these responsibilities.”
“I am very excited about the next generation of farmers. These bright young people are learning about the latest science and techniques at agricultural colleges around the country and this knowledge will energise the sector."
MacManus argued that increasing the number of young farmers would be beneficial to the implementation of sustainable farming practices, referring to supports for young farmers as a win-win for the sector and for the environment.
“They are also starting their career in a time when responding to climate change is a natural part of how we build a sustainable future for the sector. I see their involvement not only as a win for the environment, but a win in achieving even higher food standards for our citizens.”
“Sinn Féin will always stand for the protection and development of our family farming sector, which powers our rural economies,” the MEP concluded.