Fianna Fáil Agriculture and Food Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has severely criticised Minister Creed for changing the criteria needed to access direct payments under CAP this year. The Minister is now insisting that young farmers must have completed a recognised FETAC level 6 course in agriculture before they can apply for funding. Up until now farmers were eligible to apply once they had taken up a place on a relevant agricultural course.
Deputy McConalogue explained, “I, along with a number of my colleagues, have been contacted by young farmers who are extremely worried about the impact of this change. This new rigid criteria means that many of them will now not be eligible for essential payments under the 2017 National Reserve and Young Farmers’ Scheme.
“This move is inherently unfair and the fact that the Minister is attempting to hide behind EU eligibility criteria is a damning indictment of the contempt he holds for young farmers across the country.
“Under, CAP Regulation 1307/2013 Member States have flexibility in defining the eligibility criteria for young farmers, and the Minister’s decision to change the educational requirements is questionable as it only serves to exclude young farmers from important funding streams.
“Minister Creed must reconsider the changes he has implemented. I am calling on him to ensure that those who are currently enrolled in agriculture courses are included and to extend the upcoming deadline for those in this situation to facilitate them in making applications.
“Fianna Fáil understands the importance of sustaining and supporting the next generation of farmers. Farming faces a serious demographic challenge as the bulk of the agricultural workforce grows older and retires and it is essential that young men and women are encouraged to continue working on the land”.