Article 50(3) of EU Regulation 1307/2013 stipulates that “Members States may define further objective and non-discriminatory eligibility criteria for young farmers applying for the payment for young farmers as regards appropriate skills and/or training requirements”.
With regard to the National Reserve, Article 30(11) of EU Regulation 1307/2013 stipulates that “Member States may establish their own additional objective and non-discriminative eligibility criteria for this category of farmers as regards appropriate skills, experience or education ”.
Since the introduction of the Single Payments Scheme in 2005 Ireland has applied a requirement that successful applicants under the National Reserve must have an appropriate agricultural educational qualification. Successful applicants are required to have completed a recognised course of education in agriculture giving rise to an award at FETAC level 6 or its equivalent. This requirement is in place to ensure that National Reserve and Young Farmer Scheme funding is targeted at bona fide young farmers. Under the 2015 National Reserve and Young Farmer Scheme Ireland introduced increased flexibility in order to maximise the number of eligible applicants into the schemes and students of agricultural education were included if otherwise eligible. Ireland was required to notify the EU Commission of the additional educational criteria being applied to the schemes in 2015.
The EU Commission subsequently advised Ireland that the flexible arrangements that would allow an applicant to commence their agricultural education after the date of submission of an application under the National Reserve and/or Young Farmers Scheme did not fit with the ‘annual logic of the Direct Payments’ and was a risk of non-compliance with Regulatory requirements. Therefore, successful applicants under the National Reserve and the Young Farmers Scheme in both 2017 and 2018 must have completed their agricultural educational qualification by the closing date for receipt of applications of 15th May in the respective year.
Where an applicant has fully completed all aspects of their course by 15th May but has not yet been verified as successful or received final certification, a Confirmation of Education Form should be submitted with the young farmer’s application. This form is available to download on my Department’s website. The form is to be filled out by a representative of the college to confirm that the applicant has fully completed all aspects of the course by the 15th May.
Decisions in relation to the National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme, including educational qualification requirements, are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which includes members of the main farming bodies, and agricultural education and advisory services.