The Young Farmers Scheme and the separate and distinct ‘young farmer’ priority category of the National Reserve were introduced under Pillar I of the reformed CAP in 2015 to provide support to young farmers in the initial period following the commencement of their agricultural activities.
In line with the EU Regulations governing the operation of the Young Farmers Scheme, the payment is limited to a maximum period of five years. Payment is based on the number of payment entitlements activated in the scheme year, subject to a maximum of 50. Since the introduction of the Young Farmers Scheme in 2015 support has been granted to young famers who have commenced their agricultural activities since 2010. There is no provision within the EU Regulations to provide for support to young farmers who commenced their agricultural activity prior to 2010. In line with EU Regulation 2393/2017 (Omnibus Regulation), since 2018 a young farmer who commenced farming from 2014 onwards and who submits his/her first Young Farmers Scheme application within five years of commencement of farming may receive payment under the scheme for the maximum period of five years.
Separately, from 2015 the ‘young farmer’ priority category of the National Reserve has also provided support to young farmers who have commenced their agricultural activity since 2010. The National Reserve provides an allocation of payment entitlements on eligible ‘naked’ land or increases the value of entitlements below the national average to bring them up to the national average. In 2015 the National Reserve also provided support on a once-off basis to a group of farmers called "Old Young Farmers". This was a category of young farmers who had commenced their agricultural activity in 2008 and 2009 but had suffered the disadvantage of not having had access to Installation Aid available at the time of their initial set up.
‘Forgotten Farmer’ is a term used to describe a group of farmers who had set up their agricultural holdings prior to 2008, were still under 40 in 2015 and held low value payment entitlements, but were ineligible as young farmers under the National Reserve. As the purpose of the National Reserve is to provide support to farmers in their early years following the establishment of an agricultural holding, the 'Forgotten Farmer' group did not meet the eligibility requirements. The group sought to be considered under the National Reserve as a group suffering from specific disadvantage. As outlined previously, there is no basis in EU Regulations under which this group can meet the eligibility requirements for the Young Farmers Scheme payment.
EU Regulations governing the National Reserve provide that the two categories of young farmer and new entrant to farming must receive priority access to the Reserve. Since 2018, under the Omnibus Regulation, Member States may use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund specific disadvantage categories under the National Reserve but only if a linear cut is required to fund the two priority categories of young farmer and new entrant to farming in that particular year. Since 2018, the National Reserve has been funded without the requirement for a linear cut to the value of all payment entitlements and this is also the case for 2021. Decisions in relation to the National Reserve, including the basis of funding the Reserve, are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which comprises members of the farming organisations and farm advisory services.
I am fully committed to addressing this issue in a way that is fair to this cohort of farmers under the next CAP as outlined in the Programme for Government.