Politicians and farm organisations have been called on to deliver for ‘old’ young farmers, following a meeting of affected farmers last week.
Hundreds farmers attended the meeting organised under the banner of ‘forgotten farmers’.
Organised by Galway farmer Kenneth O’Brien, the meeting aired the views of the group of farmers who despite being under the age of 40 do not qualify for key young farmer supports under the new CAP reform as they have been farming for more than the five years.
Speaking at the meeting O’Brien said, that he has been fighting a battle on the issue for over 10 years.
“For me and farmers like me, at the moment there is nothing for us in the latest CAP reform.
“Me and farmers like me are being discriminated against,” he said.
O’Brien called on politicians and farm organisations to deliver for farmers in this category, warning that he would be taking the issue directly to the European Commission in Brussels if a solution is not found.
There was much anger on the night with farmers from all over the country detailing their experience of they found themselves among the cohort of ‘old’ young farmers.
Many farmers said they would be unable to continue farming if there situation was not addressed by Department of Agriculture and the Minister.
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The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney gave an update last week on the ‘old’ young farmers issues ahead of a the meeting.
In response to a number of parliamentary questions on the issue this week, he again said the Department of Agriculture has no discretion regarding these eligibility criteria and, as such, it is not possible to extend the Young Farmers Scheme or Young Farmers category of the National Reserve to include the group of farmers in question.
However, he also said that the Regulations does include an optional provision whereby Member States may use the National Reserve to allocate new entitlements or give a top-up on the value of existing entitlements for persons who suffer from a ‘Specific Disadvantage’.
He said the application of this optional use of the Reserve for non-priority categories will be dependent on the availability of funds within the National Reserve once the two priority categories have been allocated.
According to the Minister, the Department is aware of the particular category of farmer and is currently engaging with the EU Commission to examine the possibility of including this category of farmer under the ‘Specific Disadvantage’ provision.