Department ignores call to support forgotten farmer – Naughten

In Agriculture by Denis Naughten

P1010517Denis Naughten TD has described a decision by the Department of Agriculture not to support an all-party recommendation to resolve the issue of young farmers with low or no single farm payment entitlements – known as ‘forgotten farmers’ – as “disappointing”.

Following a proposal by Denis Naughten, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture Food and the Marine made a submission to the Department of Agriculture to give all young, trained farmers access to the national reserve and to an enhanced level of financial support under TAMSII.

This would have benefited about 3,000 young farmers who did not avail of installation aid in the past and who were not able to access a top-up from the National Reserve.

“We are talking about one in six young farmers who are presently on very low entitlements under the single farm payment scheme, and if our agricultural industry is to develop we need to support and encourage each and every one of them,” said Denis Naughten.

“The fact that such a large number of young farmers, some 3,000 based on a Department of Agriculture estimate, fall into this category will raise serious questions about the long term sustainability of farming on these holdings which need to be addressed in the interests of Irish agriculture.

“I raised this matter with Minister Coveney in the Dáil last week and I am disappointed that the Department has now rejected this proposal in its response to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

“I would now again call on Minister Coveney and request that he immediately establishes a working group of all the stakeholders in order to develop a strategy, not only to look at the entitlements issue but also other on farm supports for such a large number of young farmers.”

Editors note:
Correspondence from Committee and Dail reply
AFM-i-530-2015 Deputy Naughten Forgotten Farmers

AFM-r-346-2015 DAFM re forgotten farmers

Thursday, 16 July 2015
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)

330. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 210 of 19 May 2015 and following the adoption of a recommendation by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the steps he will take to ensure that forgotten farmers have access to the national reserve and to enhanced benefits under the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30250/15]

Simon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

The 2015 National Reserve closed for receipt of applications on 29 th May 2015. The National Reserve fund in 2015 is based on 3% of the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling, which is estimated at providing approximately €24 million in funding. Based on the level of applications, with some 6,500 having been received, it is expected that there will be considerable demand on the National Reserve fund in 2015. With regard to the group commonly referred to as ‘Forgotten Farmers’, analysis carried out by my Department shows that there are some 3,900 farmers who are under the age of 40, who established their holdings prior to 2008 and who hold low value entitlements. An estimation of the cost of increasing the value of existing entitlements to the National Average for these 3,900 farmers stands at €12.288 million. Further analysis by my Department shows that 898 of these 3,900 farmers availed of Installation Aid available at the time.

The farmers in this group will benefit from an increase in the value of the entitlements under the convergence process between 2015 and 2019, whereby farmers who hold entitlements with an Initial Unit Value below 90% of the Basic Payment Scheme national average will see the value of their entitlements increase gradually over the five years of the scheme.

With regard to qualification for the enhanced 60% rate of aid under TAMS, the definition of ‘young farmer’ laid down for the purposes of any capital investment schemes is quite explicit: farmers must be below 40 years of age at the time of application and have been set up in farming within the previous five years. These qualifying criteria are laid down by EU regulation and I have no authority to vary them. Unfortunately, this means that some farmers will not qualify for the enhanced rate of aid under TAMS. However, any young farmers who do not qualify for the enhanced rate of aid under the dedicated Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme will be prioritised for aid under the various other new TAMS schemes which offers grants of 40% of investment costs. The following investments have been identified as priority areas to be targeted in the new TAMS schemes:

– a young farmer capital investment scheme,

– dairy equipment,

– low emission spreading equipment,

– organic capital investment,

– animal housing, animal welfare and farm safety and farm nutrient storage, and

– pig and poultry investments in energy, water meters and medicine dispensers.

I have already launched the new Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme and the Dairy Equipment Scheme, and Terms and Conditions for both are available on my Department’s website. The other TAMS II schemes will be rolled out as soon as possible and will be open to all farmers, irrespective of age.