According to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, as a result of discussions with the EU Commission in early 2015 regarding the inclusion of the ‘old young farmer’ under the 2015 National Reserve, the commission advised that the inclusion of groups under ‘specific disadvantage’ category of the programme would require individual approval at EU level.

Meanwhile, the minister was responding to questions put to him – during Dáil proceedings last week – by Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins who inquired as to the plans the minister had to help the ‘forgotten farmers’.

Minister Creed pointed out that decisions in relation to the National Reserve – including the basis of funding it – are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which comprises members of the main farming organisations, farm advisory and education services.

“The National Reserve in 2017 was established using funding derived from a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements. EU Regulations pertaining to the National Reserve provide that the two categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ must receive priority access to the National Reserve,” he added.

Ireland consulted with the EU Commission regarding the possibility of including the ‘Forgotten Farmer’ group in the specific disadvantage category of the 2017 National Reserve.

“The commission confirmed that member states could not use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund a specific disadvantage category of the National Reserve.”

The minister went on to say that the commission confirmed at the time that the only funding option for the specific disadvantage category was natural replenishment of the National Reserve.

This, he confirmed, included unused entitlements or the proceeds of claw-back – but only after the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ had been catered for.

EU Regulation 2393/2017 (Omnibus Regulation) came into effect in January 2018 and introduced a new possibility for the inclusion of ‘specific disadvantage’ categories such as ‘forgotten farmers’ into the National Reserve.

He continued: “From 2018, member states may use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund ‘specific disadvantage’ categories of the National Reserve, but only if a linear cut is required to fund the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ in that particular year.

“As there was sufficient funding available in the National Reserve in 2018 and 2019 from natural replenishment of the fund – in order to cater for the two priority categories – the issue of a linear cut did not arise.”