Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands-Northwest, Chris MacManus has said poor government policy must not prevent young people from starting a career in agriculture.

To support young farmers in Ireland, the MEP will urge the European Commission to engage with the Irish government to address its “lack of ambition on generational renewal” in the industry.

MEP MacManus, who is also a member of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, has voiced his support for Macra na Feirme’s recent call for government action on young farmer support.

The European Commission observed that Ireland is one of only three member states that allocates the minimum amount of 3% of their initial direct payments to young farmers, according to Macra na Feirme president, John Keane.

Young farmers

Commenting on the recently published European Commission summary observations on the proposed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan, MEP MacManus said:

“Farming is a difficult and physical job and the age profile of farmers will play a role in workplace accidents. Until farmers are ready to retire, we need to be properly incentivising farmer partnerships and preparing younger people to take over these responsibilities.”

However, the trend of how the average age of farmers is developing is “not positive,” according to the MEP.

The Teagasc National Farm Survey released earlier this week, according to MEP MacManus, shows that the average age of farmers has moved from 55 to 59 years since 2016.

Commenting on the next generation of farmers, MEP MacManus said: “These bright young people are learning about the latest science and techniques at agricultural colleges around the country, and this knowledge will energise the sector.

“They are also starting their careers at a time when responding to climate change is a natural part of how we build a sustainable future for the sector.”

MEP MacManus added that the involvement of young farmers is a win for the environment and will achieve even higher food standards for Irish citizens.