Is an Erasmus scheme for young farmers on the way?

A proposal to create an Erasmus scheme for young farmers – enabling them to avail of training opportunities in other EU countries – has won overwhelming support from the European Parliament’s Environment Committee.

The proposal, tabled by Fine Gael MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness, calls for an EU-wide study abroad scheme to improve young farmers’ skills and experience, focused on vocational training.

Following yesterday’s vote, McGuinness said “it is crucial” that the European farming sector encourages a new generation of young farmers to adopt sustainable practices.

She stressed that it is also vital to have “a global mind-set” and to raise awareness of environmental issues.

“The level of education of young farmers will play a key role in meeting future challenges and should therefore be rewarded with a higher financial contribution.

“An Erasmus scheme for young farmers would offer a variety of training opportunities across Europe where they can see different agricultural practices; perhaps in very different climates and soil conditions depending on the member state,” she said.

‘Higher land rental’

On the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments system, the Midlands-North West MEP said payments to farmers may lead to “higher land rental” and purchase prices in some member states.

The current system does not promote the transfer of farmland; and it does not adequately protect young farmers from agricultural price volatility. They are more exposed too as young farmers starting out in their chosen career.

McGuinness underlined that any successful strategy for generational renewal should be based on a holistic approach – facilitating: young farmers’ access to land, finance, advisory services and training; coherence between local, national and EU measures for young farmers; and farm succession strategies.

“As generational renewal is a priority for the commission during the next CAP reform it is important that the Parliament is working on the issue of assisting young farmers.

“EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has also previously stated that generational renewal is a policy imperative when it comes to the next reform of the CAP.

“I welcome the Environment Committee’s endorsement of my opinion as the first step forward towards improved support and training opportunities for young farmers,” she said.

The McGuinness proposal will now be taken into consideration as the Environment Committee’s official opinion on the subject during the drafting of the Committee on Agriculture’s overall report on the implementation of CAP young farmers’ tools in the EU.