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Irish Government preventing young farmers access to funding - Carthy

26 January, 2017 - by Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has called on Minister Michael Creed to honestly engage with stakeholders to ease access for young farmers to CAP top-up payments.  Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said that the department has been misleading representatives by claiming that criteria for young farmers is set entirely at EU level. 

Carthy said: “Only 7% of Irish farmers are under the age of 35.  The 2013 CAP reforms set out to encourage the uptake of farming activities by young people by offering additional so-called “young farmer payments”.  This reform defined ‘Young Farmer’ as anyone under the age of 40 who had taken up farming within the last 5 years.  Although these first two criteria are universal within the EU, the rules left it open for national governments to set additional criteria for ‘Young Farmers’ to meet in order to be eligible for the payment.  The Irish Government chose to apply an educational requirement which compelled participants to be enrolled in a FETAC level 6 course in order to apply. 

“Now the department is claiming that it cannot change these rules in order to accommodate long waiting lists to get onto these courses.  This is clearly a misleading assertion on the part of the government.

“My office in Brussels has investigated this matter at EU level and we have received confirmation that the educational requirement for the Young Farmers scheme is a rule set at national level.  Under Regulation 1307/2013 on Direct Payments, It is completely up to EU Member State Governments whether to enforce educational criteria at all.  In fact only 10 EU Member States chose to apply educational criteria, Ireland being one of them.”

“Furthermore, there is no EU legislation governing how they should enforce those educational requirements if they do decide to.  This means that there is nothing in EU Regulations preventing the Department from changing the date of enrolment, or any other criteria so that anyone who has applied to take part in an educational course can avail of the payment.

“Unfortunately this is simply another in a long line of examples whereby the Irish Department of Agriculture exploits the labyrinth of legislative red-tape facing farmers in order to shirk its own accountabilities.  When faced with a problem, Ministers and officials consistently claim that they cannot change a system as is controlled by the European Commission.  In this case that is simply just not true. 

“It is unfair for Minister Creed to scapegoat his own responsibilities.  His failure to address this matter honestly has resulted in countless young Irish farmers being denied access to crucial funding that could be the difference between having a livelihood in farming or not. 

“Considering the evidence that we have provided I am calling on Minister Creed to immediately respond to these issues.  He needs to show some flexibility with the rules and provide an honest justification for his failure to do so thus far.”

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