EU confirms that Irish Government unilaterally blocking Young Farmers access to payments - Carthy
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Matt Carthy has reported that correspondence he has received from the European Commission confirms that it is the Irish government, acting unilaterally, that is preventing young farmers’ access to vital funding. Carthy was speaking following his receipt of response from the Commission regarding the eligibility of Young Farmers for National Reserve Funds.
Under Article 50 (3) of Regulation 1307/2013 on Direct Payments, educational requirements are optional for Member States. However new parameters set by the Irish Department of Agriculture in March have been blamed on the EU by Minister Creed.
Speaking from Brussels Carthy said:
“The uphill battle faced by young farmers for accessing the National Reserve continues, with the Department refusing to come clean on decisions it is taking. Announcements in March that only those who have already completed their agricultural education course will have access to crucial funds, were a blow to thousands of young farmers.
“In order to continue working and meet the educational requirements set by the Minister, many young farmers study part-time. This could mean being denied access to National Reserve Funds for any number of years, by which time those farmers probably will be disqualified by other criteria.
“This latest new criterion comes despite the Minister being exposed on statements that these rules were being devised in Brussels.
“First we had the Minister denying responsibility for setting these criteria, despite clear wording in Article 50 (3) of Regulation 1307/2013 that further educational requirements are optional for Member States. In fact, only 10 Member States, including Ireland, require such education.
“Last month I wrote to the European Commission asking for them to clarify whether it had had a part to play in the new criterion that Young Farmers were to have finished their studies, as opposed to previous years where enrolment and ongoing studies were enough to qualify.
“The answer I have received from the European Commission this week states that ‘the Commission does not give any formal approval as regards additional criteria for young farmers’. This confirms the fact that the Irish Government, one of only 10 EU countries applying the educational criterion, is responsible for these extra rules.
“The Commission has now confirmed this additional requirement for payments has been imposed by the Minister, presumably to disqualify thousands of young farmers due to his own Department’s lack of planning to ensure a proper budget for this measure”.
“The Minister cannot continue to hide behind the European Commission when it is his Department that decided to invoke educational criteria in the first place and when the legislation clearly puts this as a national competence. The department should be going to extra lengths to encourage young people into farming rather than continuing to place obstacles in their way.”