EU schemes usher new era for young farmers

Kieran O'Dowd, National President of Macra na Feirme

New era beckons for young farmers

As we enter a new era of CAP the first schemes to emerge from the newly reformed CAP are the Basic Payment National Reserve and Basic Payment Young Farmer Top Up schemes. Both schemes are in Pillar 1 of CAP with 100% EU funded schemes and recently established young farmers may benefit from both schemes or the Young Farmer Top Up.

What has the National Reserve to offer young farmers? Firstly the National Reserve is an important policy instrument to ensure young farmers and new entrants entering farming without an adequate Basic Payment entitlement are given an opportunity to be allocated entitlements. For the first time young farmers and new entrants are a mandatory category in the National Reserve under EU CAP legislation. The national reserve is governed by European scheme rules, however, member states have some flexibility to set objective criteria for the scheme. Ireland chose to impose an off- farm income limit and a maximum amount of area on which entitlements could be applied. Some European members states may decide not to apply these criteria.

To be eligible for the national reserve a young farmer must be set up or setting up in farming within the last five years with a herd number, have agricultural education or commence education before September 2016, have less than €40,000 off-farm income in either 2013 or 2014 and have no basic payment entitlements or hold entitlements below the national average. A successful application will receive entitlements at the national average value of around €170 and when greening is added it equates to approximately €254 per hectare. The maximum area is 90 hectares and applicants can only apply once to the 2015-2019 national reserve. Thus, young farmers must plan before applying for the National Reserve as they have only one chance to apply. Those who applied in the 2007-2012 reserve and who received a limited allocation of entitlements due to the imposition of financial ceiling have an opportunity to apply to the 2015-2019 National Reserve. The closing date for the National Reserve is March 31 and all applications must be made by registering on agfood.ie or through the farmers agent. The National Reserve is open for applications for the period 2015-2019, however, this is subject to funds being available in the reserve. If we have learnt anything from the previous 2007- 2013 National Reserve we must ensure there are effective mechanisms to replenishing the reserve with funds, otherwise we will end up with no National Reserve for new entrants to farming over the coming years.

The second scheme is the Young Farmer scheme, which provides a 25% top up on the average Basic Payment for a young farmer to support them in their first five years of farming. Again the herd number allocation is the date deemed to have begun farming. The top up will provide approximately €64 per entitlement up to a maximum of 50 hectares, regardless of the value of entitlements held. Similar to the National Reserve applicants have to be no more than 40 years during the calendar year of entry to the scheme. The young farmer must be qualified or committed to starting their education by September 30, 2016. There is no off-farm income limit on this scheme. There are additional criteria for group farming (partnership, company, joint herd number) that apply to both schemes.

Applications are online from January 5, closing date May 2015. Register with www.agfood.ie or submit through an agent.

A shortcoming of the above schemes is that they are linked to a very narrow European definition of a young farmer. There is one realistic chink of light for these farmers and that is the possibility that there will be a category created in the national reserve for these farmers in April 2015, subject to funding availability in the national reserve and clearance from the EU commission which the Department of Agriculture are currently seeking.

Macra has long made the case for an ‘old-young’ farmers at national and European level to include young farmers who are outside the five-year criteria and who are farming land with low or no entitlements.


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