CONSEIL EUROPEEN DES JEUNES AGRICULTEURS European Council of Young Farmers - Europ채ischer Rat der Junglandwirte
Joris Baecke President of the European Council of Young Farmers Informal Meeting of Agriculture Ministers Under the Irish Presidency of the European Union
Dublin, Ireland 28 May 2013
Dear President of the European Council, Minister Coveney, Dear Commissioner Cioloş, Dear Ministers of Agriculture, Dear COMAGRI Chairman De Castro, Dear Parliamentary rapporteurs, Ladies and gentlemen, We are all well aware that this is an important Informal Farm Council. We are, according to the Irish Presidency’s timetable, just weeks away from a final agreement on CAP reform. A third of the way through the trilogue process, a deal appears to be within reach; but on many issues, there is still a lot of work to be done. A good compromise at this stage is needed, but there are also crucial red lines in this reform, which cannot be ignored. This CAP reform must achieve what it set out to do: make European agriculture more competitive and more sustainable, simultaneously. As some of you know from CEJA’s recent Future Food Farmers campaign – there is one aspect which must be addressed by this CAP reform before the other challenges can be dealt with: that is, generational renewal in Europe’s farming population.
At this stage, many in this room have acknowledged the gravity and scale of the demographic problem in EU agriculture, as well as the need to address it in both pillars of the new CAP.
However, some of you have difficulty accepting that the problem affects particular national situations. I have to say to you again, Dear Ministers â€“ not one of you can afford to turn a blind eye to the dramatic demographic crisis. Every single EU Member State has a problem with generational renewal. No Member State has a high enough % of young farmers. Not only that, but the first years of starting a farm as a young person, are the most difficult ones of your career â€“ when investments are high, and returns are low. Add to that the fact that research shows that young farmers are more productive, more business-oriented, higher educated and more environmentally aware than older farmers on average, and your arguments against a mandatory top-up collapse.
There is not a single Member State that can afford not to address generational renewal by stating that there is not a problem. It would belike the orchestra that keeps on playing while the ship slowly sinks.
We are not asking for much. Just 2% of the national envelope, to be fully used for young farmers under direct payments and the current installation aid in the rural development program, strengthened by the possibility to increase the level of co-financing to 80/20 for the thematic sub-programme for young farmers â€“ we have utter faith that this combination will make a real difference to the setting up of young
farmers in agriculture and to support them in the first vulnerable years of their business â€“ Thanks to education and innovation, they are much more likely to put these modest additional payments to good use than their older counterparts. Eurostatâ€™s figures on productivity levels according to age group confirm this.
We understand that important interests are at play in these CAP reform negotiations. But I must re-iterate that young farmers cannot be allowed to drown in the sea of bargaining and trade-offs: our demands are modest and our arguments are sound. Moreover, in the Commissionâ€™s proposal, young farmers have become a priority under this reform. Not only this, but the European Parliament has cross-party support for this proposal.
So, I am looking at you Minister Coveney and your fellow Ministers who will attend the June Luxemburg Council. European Young Farmers are counting on you. Young farmers need your support. The two measures, like the pillars they are under, complement each other and must be used together.
To guarantee a competitive and sustainable European agriculture sector in the future, you have to make this reform of the CAP truly count for generational renewal in farming, by providing the measures in both pillars to all young farmers, in every Member State; The future of European Agriculture depends on you.
I thank you again, Minister Coveney, for inviting me to speak at thisInformal Farm Council.
Thank you all for your attention.