Seán Finan: Education and affordable finance vital for young farmers

As we move towards a new year this is an opportune time to reflect on some of the work and achievements of Macra and our agri-affairs committee on behalf of young farmers over the last year and outline some of the challenges and opportunities which exist for young farmers in 2017.

The Land Mobility Service backed by FBD Trust, Aurivo, Dairygold, Glanbia and the Department of Agriculture has reached the end of the initial three-year pilot.

The service continues to address the issue of access to land by providing opportunities to young farmers who want to establish a career in farming through collaborative arrangements.

Many arrangements are in place and many more are looking for opportunities. We will work with all stakeholders to roll out a land mobility service in 2017. For young farmers to capitalise on opportunities, agricultural education is vital. We continue to lobby for additional teaching resources for Teagasc to ensure access to education for all young farmers.

We have also presented our views on the Teagasc strategic vision project for agricultural education.

Macra continues to provide informal training opportunities or continued professional development to young farmers leading to a ‘Master of Agri Skills certificate’ through our Young farmer skillnet programme.

Training is provided in business, technical and personal categories. Macra recently launched the Safe Agri Skills card programme in partnership with ABP. The card is awarded on completion of a number of farm-safety modules.

Affordable finance is the lifeblood of any business; we continue to lobby and are working with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland to explore credit lines and finance packages at affordable rates.

We welcome the low-interest loan scheme announced in the budget for working capital and in a recent meeting with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland we called for overdrafts that were restructured into term loans to be included in the new loan scheme.

Other achievements in 2016 included securing Mr Creed’s confirmation that young farmer new entrants to sheep in 2016 will be facilitated in the new sheep welfare scheme. Lobbying to secure a top-up of €1,000 for young dairy on top of the EU flat rate payment to all dairy farmers and the rollover of stock and stamp duty relief in the budget. The Succession Partnership has been launched worth €25,000 in a tax credit over five years.

The transfer of the farm has to take place within 10 years. Macra has secured confirmation that existing registered partnerships will be accommodated once a succession plan is in place.

Plans for 2017

Macra will continue to lobby for a 2017 young farmer National Reserve. We are proposing a budget is formed by distributing unused funds in the young farmer Top-up Scheme to all farmers and recoup the same funds to form a national reserve fund.

We support the plight of the “older young farmers” outside the five-year rule. They have no or very low SFP entitlements.

We are calling for the Government to honour its programme commitment to make a submission to Brussels to seek recognition for them as a group with a specific disadvantage. We also want the New Entrant Parent Partnership farmers to be included as a category in this submission.

We will shortly propose an amendment to the Rural Development Programme calling for grazing infrastructure such as farm roadways and water infrastructure be included in TAMS II.

This infrastructure will aid grass utilisation, farm development, efficiency and profitability at farm level.

Macra continues to represent young farmers on all the stakeholder forums and our forestry and environmental policy will launch soon. As an active member of CEJA, we represent Irish Young Farmers at an EU level through support from IFAC Accountants.

Macra has secured six expert seats on Civil Dialogue Groups in Brussels. Macra will begin developing a Cap Policy post 2020 by holding a series of Cap consultation meetings in January and February to get views of young farmers to assist in the development of our Cap post-2020 policy.

We will play our part in protecting the interests of our industry and young farmers through the Brexit process.

Seán Finan is Macra na Feirme, national president 2015 - 2017


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