YFCU president: Young Farmers’ Payment changes ‘correct an imbalance’

Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) president James Speers has welcomed changes to the Young Farmers’ Payment (YFP) meaning all successful applicants who received the payment for one year in 2015 will now be eligible to apply for the last two years of the scheme in 2018 and 2019.

However, he warns the good work will be wasted if the measures are not maintained post-Brexit.

Speers said: “This new provision corrects an imbalance, which had been at the very heart of the YFP measures up to this point.

“The YFCU had been calling for changes to the scheme.

I would like to commend DAERA staff for the principled stance they have taken on the matter and the fact that they lobbied Brussels accordingly.

However, he added: “But all of this will count for nothing if the new measures are not fully maintained once the post-Brexit support measures are put in place.”

Changes

Under previous rules, this five-year period would have been reduced if the young farmer had been farming as the head of a holding for a time before first submitting an application.

The changes mean that this no longer applies. However, payments for the missing years prior to the rule change cannot be claimed retrospectively.

The department intends to get in contact with applicants affected by this rule change and will offer advice on how to make an application through the 2018 Single Application Form online.

Encouraging young people

Speers said he believes the new payment regime will encourage greater numbers of young farmers to acquire head-of holding status within their family farm businesses.

“Everyone is aware of the many issues that currently confront agriculture in Northern Ireland. Brexit, CAP reform and the need to develop farm businesses that are inherently more efficient are just three of these challenges,” he said.

“And we need young people with the energy, resolve and ability to help the industry move forward on a positive footing.”

Speers added that the new Land Mobility Programme will allow young farmers play a more active role, from a production agriculture perspective.

He said: “Over the coming years, the land mobility programme will help bring down the average farmer age in Northern Ireland while boosting the overall productivity of our land resource.”