With election fever starting to take hold, Macra na Feirme has released its 2016 manifesto to political parties and Dáil Éireann election candidates.

“Supporting all young farmers helps deliver jobs and employment in rural areas, helps grow the agri-food sector, drive efficiency, innovation and productivity at farm level,” the manifesto’s introduction states.

“Supporting agriculture delivers a huge multiplier effect that benefits and sustains rural areas and the economy as a whole.”

In a 13-point wishlist for young farmers, the manifesto prioritises the need for EU and National schemes targeted at young farmers to be accessible and favourable to all young farmers.

In addition, it highlights the need for a well-funded Basic Payment Scheme National Reserve to be established to ensure young farmers who start farming from now to 2020 with no or low Basic Payment can access entitlements.

Access to Land a Sticking Point

The manifesto also seeks politicians to support collaborative farming and initiatives that encourage access to land.

“Currently, outside of a family farm, there is very little opportunity for a young person to get established in farming.

“Encouraging and supporting land mobility initiatives and ensuring young farmers in new forms of collaborative arrangements are eligible for EU and national schemes and incentives is essential to encourage greater access to a career in farming. Overall the taxation code should favor the active use of the land.”

The national voluntary organisation for young farmers and rural young people is also demanding targeted supports in rural development that meet the investment needs of young farmers.

It said greater focus is required on supporting productive assets, such as developing grazing infrastructure in schemes such as the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme in the Rural Development Program.

“Ireland does not have an Installation scheme grant for young farmers under the Rural Development Program which puts Irish young farmers at a disadvantage to some of their European colleagues,” the manifesto says.

Furthermore, tackling income volatility through taxation is a political must for Macra.

“An initiative to help address volatility in farm incomes would provide more financial stability to farmers in a price-volatile climate. Macra believes there is justification to introduce a new initiative to alleviate farm income volatility for farmers operating as sole traders.

“Taxation measures that favour on-farm investment (for example, stock relief and capital allowances) have yielded a significant economic return to the exchequer through increased output and productivity.”