Macra na Feirme has called for a ‘robust” definition of an active farmer to be established “to ensure payments are received by those actively farming the land”.

The young farmers organisation made the call in its submission to the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan (CSP) consultation process.

“After a month of consulting members, Macra na Feirme has submitted its CAP proposals to government in response to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Public Consultation on proposed interventions on Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027,” the organisation said in a statement.

Macra said it consulted with its members through a series of farm walks to gather their views to develop its proposals.

“The number of young farmers under the age of 35 has continued to fall over the past number of decades. The opportunity that presents itself to reform our payments system and transfer a greater proportion of funds to young farmers cannot be missed again,” Macra argued.

The association added: “For many years young farmers have heard about their valued importance in the agricultural sector. It is now time for the rhetoric and soundbites to be backed up by supports that will deliver on the key objectives of generational renewal.”

The potential role that young farmers could potentially play in addressing climate change was also highlighted.

“It is of the utmost importance that generational renewal is facilitated and supported as much as possible in the government’s CAP Strategic Plan.”

This, argued Macra Agricultural Affairs Committee chairperson Shane Fitzgerald, was to “ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry while also building a strong foundation to ensure we meet our national climate targets”.

Meanwhile, Macra national president John Keane said: “The changes made in this crucial time will have a long-lasting impact on the future of Irish farming for years to come.

“It is vital that the minister [for agriculture Charlie McConalogue] and his department deliver a CAP that delivers for young farmers and their futures,” Keane added.

Macra’s submission on the CSP is summarised as follows:

  • ‘Robust’ definition of active farmer;
  • Removal of five-year rule under the Young Farmers’ Scheme;
  • Ensuring that 3% of Pillar I payments for young farmers is secured, with additional support in Pillar II;
  • Raising the age of a young farmer to 40;
  • Catering for the ‘forgotten farmer’ cohort;
  • Allowing access for all young farmers to the same range of supports;
  • Setting convergence at 85% and applying it only after a “fair wage” has been deducted;
  • Acknowledging women who are already farming, with women-specific Knowledge Transfer (KT) groups and funding for KT and discussion group payments which have a certain percentage of female farmers;
  • Further research into gender imbalance in Irish agriculture.