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CAP Reform Decisions Show Commitment to Young Farmers

Coveney highlights initiatives to attract and retain new entrants to farming

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today took the opportunity to highlight the range of measures targeted at young farmers within the €12.5 billion in Common Agricultural Policy and exchequer funding announced for the agriculture sector earlier this week. Young farmers comprise an ever-smaller proportion of the farming population, and recent trends give reason for heightened concern.

The Minister said: “One of the major challenges facing the agriculture sector is its age profile. In short, it continues to rise in a way that is very worrying for the sector. CSO data shows that the average age of farmers rose from 50 to 54 years between 2000 and 2010. More than half were aged 55 years or older in 2010 (up from 40% in 2000), while more than a quarter were aged over 65 years. At the other end of the scale, the number of farmers under 35 years more than halved over the same period. Less than 6% of farmers in Ireland are now under the age of 35”.

The Minister stressed the dangers associated with failing to reverse this trend: “With an increasing age profile, the new and innovative thinking needed to develop more efficient, competitive and sustainable methods of production is less likely to emerge. Human nature dictates that older farmers are less likely than the younger generation to embrace new technology or to invest in their farms. The prospects of achieving the Food Harvest 2020 targets, and indeed of securing the future development and prosperity of the sector, would therefore greatly improve if we could attract more young, qualified people into farming”.

A comprehensive package of measures aimed at young farmers, comprising support under both the direct payments regime and the Rural Development Programme for the period to

2020, has been put in place, according to Minister Coveney. He highlighted the main elements as follows:

Direct Payments

  • Allocation of the full 2% of the national financial ceiling to fund a top-up payment of 25% for a period of five years to young farmers under 40 years of age. This is equivalent to a grant of up to €16,000 on 50 hectares, and compares favourably with the Installation Aid that was available under the current Rural Development Programme,
  • Additional educational criteria to be satisfied to ensure that payments are made to genuine young farmers, and
  • A national reserve of 3% of the Basic Payment Scheme ceiling will be set aside for the allocation of payment entitlements on a priority basis to young farmers.

Rural Development Programme

  • Dedicated strand of on-farm capital investment support will be ring-fenced for young farmers, with higher aid intensity rate of 60% (compared to general rate of 40%),
  • Young farmers likely to benefit in particular from €20 million per year expenditure on knowledge transfer and innovation measures that will help to embed best practice and innovative solutions across the agri-food sector, and
  • Support to partly offset the start-up cost of approved collaborative farming arrangements, which are of particular interest to young people as a pathway to commencing farming.

Existing measures

These new measures are in addition to existing measures in place specifically for young farmers such as:

  • 100% Stock Relief on Income Tax for Young Trained Farmers
  • Stamp Duty Relief for Young Trained Farmers.

There are also tax measures benefiting young farmers which facilitate succession and land mobility such as Retirement Relief on Capital Gains Tax and Agricultural Relief from Capital Acquisition Tax.

The Minister concluded by expressing his confidence that this coherent set of measures will increase the number of young people taking up farming as a career. He said: “The ‘buzz’ around the agri-food industry has been encouraging in recent years, and has, for example, contributed to an increased take-up of places in agricultural colleges. However, we need to make it more attractive for higher numbers of graduates to go into farming, and to apply their skills to food production, than has tended to be the case. Similarly, we need to encourage generational renewal within families, and to make it more attractive for parents to hand over the reins to their sons and daughters in a more timely fashion. I believe this package of measures addresses both of these requirements, and I look forward to increasing numbers of young farmers playing a central role in the future development of the agriculture sector”.

Date Released: 17 January 2014