EU young farmer numbers decline by 40% in less than decade

A report from the European Commission has illustrated how young farmer numbers declined rapidly during the eight year period from 2005 to 2013.

According to the official statistics, obtained by AgriLand, there was an estimated one million young farmers – aged less than 35 years – in 2005; however, by 2013 this figure dropped to around 600,000.

On closer inspection the data also reveals that for every farmer aged under 35 in 2013, there were nine farmers over the age of 55 years.

In other words, as the graph below illustrates, more than half of all farm managers recorded ages of over 55 years in 2013; while, just 6.9% were classified as young farmers in the then 27 members states.

The data below also demonstrates that there is a significant difference between the age categories of farmers across the EU.

Data source: European Commission

Commentary on the report states that encouraging new entrants to take up farming “is vital” for the future of agriculture and rural communities – especially as the EU farming population is ageing.

This is why the young farmer payment – a top-up payment added to the basic payment – is obligatory in every member state.

Payment is granted for a maximum of five years from the moment a young farmer takes over as the head of the holding.

This payment can account for 2% of the total national direct payment allocations. However, many countries do not use the full 2% allocation.

How does Ireland compare to other EU countries?

According to the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) the number of young farmers in Ireland is below the EU average at 6.4%.

By way of contrast, just 2.5% of farmers in Denmark and Portugal are under 35 years of age; while, a total of 12.1% of farmers in Poland are under 35.

In England and Wales 3.9% of farmers are classified as young farmers aged under 35; while in France, this figure stands at 8.8%.