By Carol Dreibelbis
Only 6 percent of farmers in the European Union are under the age of 35, while one-third of the region’s farmers are over the age of 65, according to the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA). The lack of generational renewal in European agriculture puts future food production and the vitality of rural areas at risk, the council argues.
To raise public and political awareness about the age crisis in European agriculture, CEJA recently launched a Europe-wide campaign called “Future Food Farmers.” The primary objective is to make young farmers a priority in the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the EU’s leading agricultural policy framework. CEJA hopes to shape European legislation and regulation to make agriculture more accessible to young people.
Specifically, CEJA advocates that Measure 112 in the current CAP, which provides for the “setting up of young farmers,” be made mandatory. Under the measure, EU member states can provide aid to their young farmers in the form of land, credit, or low-interest loans. But because this action is voluntary, some countries ignore it, leading to a lack of cohesive implementation and, CEJA argues, resulting in a lost opportunity to support Europe’s next generation of farmers. According to an October 2012 progress report from the European Network for Rural Development, just under half of the €4.9 billion (US$6.4 billion) budgeted for Measure 112 from 2007 to 2013 has been spent, and some 70,000 farmers have received support—only 42 percent of the set target.
In early 2013, CEJA plans to present its petition and signatories to European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos; President of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and Irish Farm Minister, Simon Coveney; and Member of European Parliament and Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Paolo de Castro.
To pledge to support “Future Food Farmers” or to find out more about the campaign, visit www.futurefoodfarmers.eu.
Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.