EU farmer survey: Lack of suitable broadband a ‘distinct disadvantage’

Speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday (Wednesday, September 27), Macra na Feirme National President, James Healy, welcomed the publication by the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) of a survey of young farmers.

The young farmer survey – entitled “Building a Sustainable Sector” – was an online survey of young farmers conducted between April and August of this year. It details some interesting findings, including the importance of rural broadband to the Irish farming youth.

The project asked questions on topics such as: economic viability; animal health; on-farm investment; environmental protection and sustainability; rural lifestyle; family farm involvement; and availability of land and credit.

At the launch of the survey findings, President Healy highlighted the discovery that over 50% of young farmers need access to land to develop their farm in an economically sustainable way.

Speaking at the launch, President Healy highlighted the Land Mobility Service – which was established by Macra na Feirme – as a successful and independent model that supports generational renewal. The Land Mobility Service has facilitiated over 280 collaborations over the past three years between young and older farmers.

“This is an important survey to capture the sentiment of young farmers across the EU,” Healy said.

“From an Irish young farmer perspective, the survey reveals that 81% of Irish young farmers surveyed believe that practical and implementable measures are needed to safeguard the environment.

It is not surprising to read within the survey findings, that 89% of Irish young farmers highlight the necessity of widespread fast broadband as an essential requirement to support a vibrant and sustainable lifestyle in rural areas.

“As Ireland’s young farmer and rural youth organisation, Macra na Feirme has consistently highlighted the importance of equal access to broadband as cities and towns.

“Over the past few years, with advancements in technology, the lack of available and widespread rural broadband is now a distinct competitive disadvantage for rural young people operating their farming businesses.

“Capturing young farmer sentiment of a viable future was an important part of the survey,” Healy added.

“Approximately 60% of young farmers across Europe think that a viable future is either ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ within the agricultural sector.

As a sector, we need to take a sector-wide approach to encouraging and supporting careers across the farming community.

Concluding, Healy warned: “The constant negativity that exists relating to high costs, barriers to entry for young farmers, financial uncertainty and challenges associated with work-life balances are discouraging new entrants to the sector.”