Jonathan Williams, Wales YFC Rural Affairs Chairman and Iwan Thomas, Wales YFC Rural Affairs Vice Chairman attended the European Young Farmer Conference in Dublin hosted by Macra na Feirme in association with CEJA, the umbrella body for young farmers organisations in Europe, with 90 other European Delegates from 26 European Member Countries.
Speakers at the prestigious conference included Dacian Ciolos- EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Simon Coveney- Irish Minister for Agriculture and Chairman of the Council of Agricultural Ministers, Joris Baecke- CEJA President, Francis Jacobs- Head of Office European Parliament in Ireland, Mairead McGuinness MEP - Member of COMAGRI, Alan Renwick- Professor in Agriculture and Food Economics, UCD and Alan Jagoe- Macra na Feirme National President.
The theme of the conference was “RDP – Delivering for Young Agri-Entrepreneurs 2014-2020” and comprised high level interaction with decision-makers from the Council of Ministers, the EU Commission and the European Parliament. The conference aimed to deliver a unified message from Young Farmers all over Europe to the institutions of the European Union regarding CAP reform. It is vital that Young farmers have a say in the shape of the Rural Development Programme (RDP).
Jonathan Williams, Wales YFC Rural Affairs Chairman said, “It is really important that any CAP reform includes mandatory support for Young Farmers in both pillars. There are just 7.5% of farmers in the EU under 35. Statistics worryingly show that there are also as many farmers over 80 as there are under 35.” He added; “On average within the EU, research shows that a young farmer is 40% more productive than an older farmer. Young farmers are more environmentally-conscious, technologically-minded, and, more than anything, better trained than older farmers. As the British census shows a rising UK population and global population forecast to hit 9billion by 2050; we are running out of farmers, yet we need to produce more and more food. That is why it is so critical that the reform of the CAP addresses this. We need to act now, not in 2020 or 2030, otherwise people may go hungry.”
The conference also included a visit to the Teagasc’s research facility at Grange, Co. Meath and a farm walk on the farm of Martin and Helen Heaney, Navan, Co. Meath.
Iwan Thomas, Wales YFC Rural Affairs Vice-Chairman said; “The two visits and the case studies presented also helped highlight how, whilst throughout Europe the agricultural systems vary widely, on the whole young farmers face the same challenges of entry into the industry. With land mobility and capital being major restrictions for entry into the industry.”
Jonathan and Iwan also had the honour of meeting The Irish President, Michael D Higgins in a reception at the Aras an Uachtarain.