Entitlement and reference years have been deemed “barriers to entry” for young farmers, according to the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

At a combined meeting of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Committee on Rural and Community Development, the commissioner indicated that both measures should be reassessed in terms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Existing entitlement values can, in a round-about way, be traced right back to ‘historical’ production levels in the original reference years – namely 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Commenting at the meeting yesterday (April 26), he said: “We have to have a look at these entitlements again and the reference years.

Many of the member states have already implemented a new regime. Ireland, Spain and a few other countries still have not adjusted their system to reflect what we might do here.

“With young farmers, if we are serious about prioritising them, this is a barrier to entry that has to be looked at,” he said.

There is the potential for changes to be made to these measures, due to more flexibility and subsidiarity being given to member states under the proposed new CAP delivery model.

During the meeting, Commissioner Hogan outlined that the commission will be taking a “strong line” on measures put in place for young farmers.

He indicated that member states will not receive approval for their respective CAP strategic plans unless they are doing “something substantial for young farmers”.

Speaking to AgriLand, the commissioner added: “One of the key objectives that will have to be fulfilled by each member state is the ability to demonstrate – to the European Commission’s satisfaction – that they’re doing everything possible to assist the programme of generational renewal.

“If we feel they are making big efforts, of course they will get their plan approved – and the opposite is the case as well.”