In an interview with EurActiv’s partner EFEAgro, the president of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), Alan Jagoe, called for more aid for people new to the industry and criticised national governments for doing more for veteran farmers than their younger counterparts.
Although Jagoe conceded that the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) had made “progress” and introduced measures to encourage young people to enter the sector, it is “still not enough” and the deployment of subsidies, in general, has to change.
Currently, farmers under the age of 40 that are starting out their careers in agriculture are eligible for additional support. Basic Payments are topped up by 25% for the first five years of installation.
The new Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2014-2020 is expected to provide nearly 180,000 young farmers with an installation grant, an EU spokesman has told EurActiv.
Irishman Jagoe admitted that this has been a “good start” and had yielded results, but called upon the EU to focus more on “active” producers.
In his view, the current system of subsidies based on hectares leads in many cases to those who “do very little, the least” collecting the payments.
He also noted that the younger generation of farmers believes that their national governments do not support them enough, concentrating on the older generations instead.
“They have to listen to the new generations, they are the future producers of our food that will feed the world; they are innovators and they have fantastic ideas,” he added.
According to CEJA, only 7% of farmers in the EU are under 35; 33% are below 65; and 50% are 55 and over, based on data from 2010.
Poland has the highest proportion of young farmers in the bloc, with 14% under 35 years old..
Finland is cited as one of the best examples of collaboration between government and young people; the UK is considered to be one of the worst in this area.
While the younger generation accepts that the agricultural crisis currently afflicting the EU is unprecedented and affects producers across the board, trust and optimism is running out.
Among the problems affecting young farmers is the price of land, which in dry countries like Spain is exacerbated by factors like irrigation. To mitigate the problem, CEJA promotes other solutions like leasing and “partnering up with veteran farmers”.
Other difficulties include securing access to credit and liquidity in order to get their foot in the door in the first place.
The association also made mention of alternatives like organic production, especially in countries where there is huge demand, for example, Germany and Austria.
Regarding women, the CEJA representative said that it is high time the “traditional stereotype” of the fields being the sole dominion of men be discarded: “The women farmers that I know are more succesful than my male colleagues,” Jagoe concluded.