A number of Irish members of the European Parliament (MEPs) would support the lifting of an age limit that would allow more women in farming to receive financial support in the next Common Agricultural Policy (under TAMS).
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine recently announced that a higher rate of 60% grant aid – in the form of Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) – would be accessible to female farmers aged 41-55 years’ in the next CAP.
Another condition of eligibility is that a formal agricultural qualification is required.
Trained female farmers, up to the age 40, already qualify – as young farmers – for an increased rate of grant aid of 60% under TAMS.
While the enhanced grant aid for a new cohort of female farmers has been welcomed, the age limit combined with the agricultural qualification requirement mean that just over 5,000 female farmers would be eligible.
Consequently, there have been calls for the 55-year-old age limit to be scrapped and raised to the incoming pension age of 67.
When questioned recently about whether he would support the lifting of that age limit, MEP Colm Markey said he would have “no problem with it being removed“.
“I have no problem with that age limit being removed whatsoever, I don’t see there being any particular gain in it being there,” he told Agriland.
He said, however, that the higher rate of grant aid for additional female farmers, as well as the female-only knowledge transfer groups that will also be introduced under the next CAP, were positive steps for female farming in Ireland.
Regarding the requirement to have an agricultural qualification, he said this is important to maintain.
“I certainly wouldn’t be in favour of removing the requirement for an agricultural qualification. We want to have people in agriculture with the expertise and education to develop and progress the industry.”
Responding to the same question, MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, said simply:
“Yes I certainly support that. I am wearing my ‘More Mná’ badge to support it.
“We need more women in all aspects of life, I have three daughters, and I would hope that when the other two become adults – one is an adult already – that they won’t be treated in a second-class way like women have since the history of our State began unfortunately.
“So, I would support that.”
The Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group (WASG), which has been lobbying hard on behalf of female farmers, has said that the current proposal on the table would see women over the proposed age limit who are working on their family farms receive no official recognition for their work.
The WASG has made the following recommendations to the DAFM:
- Women with at least a level six qualification in agriculture, or who have been head of a farm holding for at least three years, should qualify for the 60% TAMS grant;
- The 55-year age limit must be raised to the incoming pension age of 67 – this is vital in the context of ensuring that older women who are active on family farms are given the support to become equal partners before reaching pension age.
- Those women joining a formal farm partnership, with a minimum level six qualification in agriculture who meet the eligible age criteria, can obtain a 60% TAMS grant within the partnership – similar to the current partnership model where a young trained farmer joins.