Young farmers’ organisation Macra na Feirme has outlined its position in a document on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “Green Architecture” and set out its proposed eco schemes for 2023 onward.

The document – dubbed ‘Lean and Green; Macra na Feirme’s vision on the Green Architecture of CAP post-2023’ – was launched today (Thursday, May 13).

Commenting, Macra national president Thomas Duffy highlighted the importance of a clear vision for the environmental elements of the next CAP, stating:

“This is something we must be proactive about; young farmers will be affected by this reform for years to come – but young farmers also need to be put at the fore of all future environmental measures.

“The greater value for money is with practice change at the start of farming careers,” he added.

The document lays out Macra na Feirme’s position on elements such as much-debated eco-schemes with a focus on their design.

It includes examples such as hedgerow habitat protection measures and carbon-reducing measures such as milk recording which identify suitable animals for breeding.

Duffy added: “Farmers are rightfully worried about the impact of the next CAP on their income. Regardless of where the final contribution to eco-schemes ends up between 20% and 30%, the key will be that they are practical and achievable measures without additional costs or loss of land, so these are accessible to all farmers.”

Highlighting the issue of low uptake of environmental schemes by both young farmers and more highly stocked farms, Macra na Feirme has proposed greater payment limits for young farmers and partnerships including young farmers, along with schemes more suitable to co-exist with highly productive agriculture.

Macra’s Agricultural Affairs committee chairman Shane Fitzgerald said:

“We looked at the common features on all farms – it was clear from our consultations that young farmers want to protect hedgerows and watercourses so our recommended designs would focus on these.

“These features don’t impact on productive farms and deliver a lot for climate, water quality and species,” he added.

Renewing Macra na Feirme’s position in relation to multi-annual schemes, results-based methodology should be the focus of future environmental scheme design, the rural youth group said.

Macra na Feirme has called for the level of support available under these schemes to be significantly increased.

To address the disconnect between schemes and regulations Macra na Feirme has called for greater integration between eco-schemes and multi-annual schemes.

Concluding, Duffy said; “We have been clear that the future for environmental schemes must be results-based; numerous projects show that this approach works for farmers but now it needs to be scaled up.

“The issue is these schemes need proper funding – we haven’t seen that in REAP [Results Based Environment Agri Pilot Programme]. We need real ambition here and proper payment ceilings.”