Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has been called on to support a call for the allocation of 4% of direct payments for generational renewal under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Macra na Feirme has written formally to Minister McConalogue urging him to act on supporting young farmers in the upcoming meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Council.

This is part of a push by European young farmer representative association CEJA for such a measure.

The campaign involves young farmer groups across EU member states urging their respective national ministers to support the call for 4% of direct payments to be used for generational renewal.

The next meeting of the council will take place on Monday, March 22, when CAP reform will be discussed.

Macra na Feirme national president Thomas Duffy outlined concerns that the European Commission’s focus on aligning the CAP with the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy “has meant the emphasis under the previous commission on generational renewal has diminished”.

The current CAP reform proposals for post 2023, prepared under the previous Agricultural Commission, lays out generational renewal as a specific objective members states must consider in preparing their plans.

Commenting, Duffy said: “We’ve seen a lack of support on generational renewal in the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy with only a single mention of young farmers.

This is simply not good enough and the attention must return to the priorities laid out in the CAP proposals – specifically, addressing the age crisis in farming by securing 4% of direct payments for young farmer supports.

In an Irish context, Macra na Feirme says it has pointed out that the percentage of funds directed at young farmers is dropping and likely to continue for the next two years of the transitionary period between Common Agricultural Programmes (2021-2023).

The numbers applying for Young Farmers Scheme has fallen in 2020 by 1,985 applicants – resulting in €6 million less going to young farmers, the farming organisation says.

Continuing, Duffy said: “The Rural Development Programme is currently being amended for submission to the commission for the next two years.

The ambition is to align it with the next CAP – if that is the case then generational renewal must be addressed.

Macra repeated its call to the minister that those under the age of 40 but farming longer than five years be supported under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) to address this shortfall.