‘More than half of European farmers are 55 or over’

Europe is faced with an aging farming population as more than half of farmers are aged 55 years or older, according to CEJA’s Alan Jagoe.

Speaking in Brussels earlier this week, the President of CEJA said that this is a strong motivator for the group to make farming an attractive and viable career choice for young people.

“To us, the Rural Development Programme (RDP) is a way to do this, to help the rural areas of the EU meet the wide range of economic, environmental and social challenges that the 21st century throws there way.

“Rural development is central to supporting rural communities and economies but more so to sustain farmers in rural areas,” he said at the European Network for Rural Development.

The CEJA leader also highlighted the importance of generational renewal.

It is only through focusing our efforts on generational renewal that we can support the setup and establishment of young farmers who will become the people who feed a growing world population.

“The Commission’s own reports have found that we young farmers are more productive, efficient, environmentally conscious and sustainable than our older counterparts, thanks mainly to widespread education and our willingness to participate in the uptake of technology and innovation,” he said.

But, despite the emphasis on younger farmers, Jagoe said older farmers can’t be forgotten.

“These are people who have worked long and hard, he said, and many are at a stage in their lives where they would like to take a step back but their is no mechanism to do so.”

Access to finance a barrier

Also speaking at the event, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said there is no shortage of young people who want to get into farming, but many of them face imposing obstacles.

Access to finance continues to be an important barrier for generational renewal in the agricultural sector.

“Young farmers who are setting up usually have little collateral at their disposal and therefore are perceived as clients with a higher risk by lending institutions.

The introduction of innovative and targeted Financial Instruments into Rural Development Programmes is particularly useful to address this funding gap.

“Financial Instruments can help to tackle the high investment needs required when setting-up, notably in view of the low turn-over during first years in businesses,” he said.