Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questions (36)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

36. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans under the Common Agricultural Policy reform proposals to assist and support young farmers who have been farming for more than five years to build viable farming enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13942/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The definition of ‘young farmer’ under the new Direct Payments Regulation that will come into force in 2015 includes the criteria that such persons are aged 40 or less in their first year of application and that they have established their holding within five years of their first application under the Basic Payment Scheme. Persons who meet the definition of ‘young farmer’ under the new Direct Payment Regulation will be eligible both to apply to the National Reserve for an allocation of entitlements or a top-up on the value of existing entitlements and also to participate in the Young Farmers’ Scheme.

The essential purpose of the Young Farmers’ Scheme is to assist young farmers in the initial stages of establishing a farming enterprise in their own name and to encourage generational renewal. It is for this reason that the payment is restricted to those who are establishing or have established such a holding in the previous five years. In addition, the restricting of the payment to a maximum of five years will make it possible to support those young farmers who will come on-stream in the years subsequent to 2015.

Most farmers who have been farming for more than five years hold existing entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme. Where such farmers hold low value entitlements they will benefit significantly from the process of convergence that will apply under the Basic Payment Scheme. The purpose of the convergence model adopted by Ireland is to achieve a phased redistribution of payments between those who currently hold high value entitlements and those who hold low value entitlements. If such farmers have never held entitlements under the current Single Payment Scheme, but were actively farming in 2013, they will be allocated new entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015 and will benefit from the convergence process.

In relation to Pillar 2, I have recently published a consultation document setting out proposed measure outlines for inclusion in the new Rural Development Programme, 2014-2020. These proposals have been the subject of a public consultation and include an increased aid intensity of 60% for young farmers under the proposed support for capital investment on farms, compared to a 40% support rate for all other farmers. A young farmer is defined in the Rural Development Regulation as “a person who is no more than 40 years of age at the moment of submitting the application, possesses adequate occupational skills and competence and is setting up for the first time in an agricultural holding as head of that holding.” However, in relation to the 60% rate of aid for capital investment, the Regulation does provide for the flexibility to include young farmers who have set up in the 5 years preceding the application for support.

It should be noted, however, that farmers under 40 who have set up in their holding more than five years ago will of course remain eligible to apply for the full range of measures in the new RDP.