Greater flexibility will help promote the next generation

Young farmers’ permanent top-up in future CAP budgets will help promote the next generation of farmers, said ICOS president Bertie O’Leary.

The new CAP provides greater flexibility on maximising the utilisation of the 2% mandatory young farmer measure to deliver a 25% top-up for a young farmer’s first five years in farming.

“The future of the co-operative movement is dependent on young farmers regenerating our membership and our board structures,” said Mr O’Leary. “We supported our colleagues in Macra in calling for this since the outset of negotiations.”

The Pillar 1 measure is worth circa €800m annually for EU young farmers and circa €24m to Irish young farmers.

Macra president Kieran O’Dowd said the EU now needs to give careful consideration to how this top-up is implemented to maximise the draw-down and benefit to young farmers.

Mr O’Dowd added: “Consideration is also needed to explore options to facilitate the retirement of any farmers willing to retire, in tandem with the establishment of the next generation of young farmers and facilitating greater land mobility.”

Bertie O’Leary said that, overall, there are more positives than negatives in the revised CAP mandate agreed by council ministers.

ICOS is to attend a conference on milk in Brussels on Sept 24 to clarify issues. New CAP changes which ICOS feels should benefit co-op members include: Strict rules on the formation and protection of producer organisations, which should protect the co-op model; the inclusion of “grassland maintenance” at the heart of “greening” measures; and the agreed “flattening” of a 60% minimum payment figure, which, while problematic, is preferable to the 75% originally sought by the commission.

Mr O’Leary stated: “ICOS policy on CAP was to focus on the neglected single common market rule aspects of the deal, with issues of vital importance for the growth of Irish co-op agribusiness, both domestically and on key export markets. To this end, we made great efforts to block proposals on dairy supply management. We also focused on improving the tool box’ to help our industry combat market volatility, such as private storage aid rules, intervention rules and risk management.

“Milk remains an outstanding issue in the final hours of the CAP, with the European Parliament looking for powers over the rates of intervention. We believe this will politicise a vital tool which should be handled instead by technical experts at member state level.”

On Pillar II payments, O’Leary said he hopes new Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and agri-environmental schemes, that will be designed by the Department of Agriculture following this reform, will be fully co-financed and targeted at sectors with most need.

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