EU loan scheme will help young farmers ‘get up and running’

The announcement of the EU’s young farmer loan scheme has been described as a “recognition of the special impediments” to getting more young farmers ‘up and running’ in the sector.

Commenting on the announcement that €1 billion will be made available to young farmers, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, said that the fund was to be welcomed.

McCormack outlined that €1 billion “probably wasn’t that much” when spread over the likely number of applicants in 27 member states.

He added: “Even with the hope that another €1 billion would be added by commercial lenders, the sums involved were relatively paltry set beside the value of the sector and the cost of the necessary land and equipment.

Farming will continue to struggle to reform its completely lopsided age profile.

He explained: “In a situation such as we have in Ireland, where we are down to 5% of farmers being under the age of 35 and an average age of 57, we have to ask why we’re not getting younger men and women going into farming or having any interest in taking over the family farm.

“The reason why is perfectly obvious: It’s hard work that involves long hours for which you’ll get a proportionately low income that in no way reflects the work you’ve done and the skills you’ve developed and used.

That’s why we’re not getting young people going into farming and there’s no mystery about it.

Concluding, McCormack said: “If we could change that, then the youth will consider farming as a livelihood, if we can’t change that then we’ll have to look on while they continue picking other futures and occupations.”