Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney stopped short of delivering a full package of measures for young farmers in the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) which was announced yesterday, according to Macra na Feirme national president, Kieran O’Dowd.

He described the new deal as a missed opportunity not to implement the full package of options available to effect real change and guarantee generational renewal.

“While welcoming the European mandatory young farmer 25 per cent top up in Pillar I, drawing down the full two per cent available will not be possible as it would require an estimated 12,000 young farmers to utilise the two per cent,” he said.

The Macra president is calling for the unused funds in the young farmer top-up measure to be ringfenced to support young farmer in other areas.

O’Dowd also welcomed the 60 per cent targeted young farmer capital investment scheme on certain capital investment for start-up young farmers, however he believed this must be extended to all young trained farmers.

“The core issue for Macra is that Pillar II still hasn’t fully addressed the key obstacles for young farmers starting up, which in order of priority are: transfer costs and conveyance, cost of stocking and land improvement.

“The importance of introducing an Installation Aid measure and following best practice in European agriculture for supporting young farmers has been ignored by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

“The overall package for farmers is positive but the measures for young farmers are quite restrictive and therefore will be limited in their impact. This amounts to a missed opportunity for young farmers,” O’Dowd concluded.

The proposed new measures for young farmers under the new Common Agricultural Policy and RDP is that the full two per cent of the national ceiling will be allocated to young farmers, providing for a 25 per cent direct payments’ top-up on up to 50 hectares for farmers under 40 years of age. The department says this is worth more than €16,000 over the period where payment is made on the maximum area for the full five years of the scheme.

These  measures will also be supported by further schemes under the RDP, where on-farm capital investment supports will be ringfenced for young farmers at a higher rate of aid intensity of 60 per cent. It is proposed this support will initially fund dairy equipment, slurry storage, animal housing, dairy buildings and trailing show low emission spreading equipment.