New measures introduced under the EU Aid Package at national level should be co-funded, innovative, and young-farmer proofed, according to Macra na Feirme national president Seán Finan.
His comments followed a discussion between the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and young farmers at the CEJA — the European Council of Young Farmers — General Assembly in Brussels last week.
CEJA welcomed the announcement of a new support package by Mr Hogan at the farm council.
However, although CEJA acknowledges the package is going in the right direction and has taken heed of demands for new funding and assistance for farmers with cash-flow difficulties, much more needs to be done.
There must be more, targeted focus on assisting young farmers in particular because they are the most susceptible to the current crisis as well as the best-placed to forge a more sustainable future for the sector, the organisation has said.
CEJA president Alan Jagoe said: “Any additional support to farmers is welcome and it is crucial that particular issues, such as oversupply on the markets, are attempting to be addressed.”
However, he also expressed disappointment with a lack of targeted measures for young farmers.
“It is difficult enough for young people to start a farm in the EU today due to a lack of policy tools for the improvement of access to land and credit,” he said.
“Now the few who have succeeded in doing so are being put at risk even further, due to a lack of measures targeting their obvious disadvantages in times of crisis compared to their more securely established counterparts.”
The previous dairy package contained a young farmer top- up of approximately €1,000 and Mr Finan said it is essential that the new package has a similar targeted measure for young farmers who are feeling the brunt of the commodity price crisis.
In terms of innovation, ring- fencing a portion of the package for measures will drive efficiency and long-term strategic change at farm level such as incentivising farmers to improve grazing infrastructure for grass measuring and soil testing which will pay dividends for farmer’s cost base.
Macra is also calling for action on new and innovative credit arrangements for farmers that properly address the seasonality, volatile nature, and the liquidity demands that are specific to farmers.
At the CEJA event in Brussels, the head of Agribusiness and Rural Development at the European Investment Bank (EIB) Dr Harald Jahn outlined that the EIB is open for business to national banks to make credit lines available for farmers that address their working capital needs on competitive and flexible terms.
The Macra president also called for “greater ambition and innovative approaches to liquidity issues in farming”, adding: ‘The EIB funding lines through financial instruments in the Rural Development Programme can help deliver this requirement. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine needs to keep this high on the agenda with early implementation essential.’
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