Changes in the application criteria for the 2017 National Reserve and Young Farmers’ Scheme have been severely criticised by Fianna Fail’s Agriculture and Food Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue.

McConalogue believes that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, is denying young farmers access to CAP payments through these changes in criteria.

Minister Creed is now insisting that young farmers must have completed a recognised FETAC level 6 course in agriculture before they can apply for funding, McConalogue said.

Up until now farmers were eligible to apply once they had taken up a place on a relevant agricultural course, he added.

“I, along with a number of my colleagues, have been contacted by young farmers who are extremely worried about the impact of this change.

This new rigid criterion means that many of them will now not be eligible for essential payments under the 2017 National Reserve and Young Farmers’ Scheme.

“This move is inherently unfair and the fact that the minister is attempting to hide behind EU eligibility criteria is a damning indictment of the contempt he holds for young farmers across the country.

“Under CAP Regulation 1307/2013, EU member states have flexibility in defining the eligibility criteria for young farmers, and the minister’s decision to change the educational requirements is questionable as it only serves to exclude young farmers from important funding streams,” he said.

Minister Creed must reconsider the changes he has implemented, according to Fianna Fail’s Agriculture Spokesperson.

I am calling on him to ensure that those who are currently enrolled in agriculture courses are included and to extend the upcoming deadline for those in this situation, to facilitate them in making applications.

“Fianna Fail understands the importance of sustaining and supporting the next generation of farmers.

“Farming faces a serious demographic challenge as the bulk of the agricultural workforce grows older and retires and it is essential that young men and women are encouraged to continue working on the land,” he said.