In his regular column, Matteo Bartolini President of CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), looks back on the Council’s achievements in 2014.
MF: Would you say that 2014 was a year of maintaining the momentum of CEJA’s work?
MB: 2014 has been a crucial year for CEJA. Following the achievements made in 2013 with the inclusion of a mandatory measure for young farmers in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it was essential that we ensured the implementation of this historic political agreement in an effective and concrete manner. In a similar vein, it was also important that we made use of the momentum that the CAP reform negotiations had given CEJA the previous year, and that we maintained an increasing amount of visibility and awareness of the age crisis in European farming. This was despite the retreat that agriculture, due to the end of CAP discussions, made from the central position it had been occupying in EU current affairs for the last two years. Progress has been made on the policy front even beyond the remits of the CAP, including putting the need to strengthen EU policy for young farmers at centre stage within the agricultural priorities of the Italian Presidency.
MF: What else was notable in 2014?
MB: 2014 witnessed the official launch of the CEJA-Massey Ferguson partnership. Among several joint events, we held a CEJA working group at the MF tractor plant in Beauvais, France. The event also included a tour of the tractor production facilities for a number of leading young farmers from across the EU. 2014 saw the end of an era as the previous European Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Cioloş, was replaced by Irishman Phil Hogan. In addition, we saw an array of newly-elected MEPs take their seats on the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament. As well as this, CEJA welcomed a new Secretary General a year ago to assist what was then the newly-elected Board, with me at the helm as the new President. Despite all these changes, CEJA accomplished a number of achievements over the last 12 months and I am proud to say that the issue of young farmers was still high on the political agenda right through to the end of 2014.
MF: You also had a major focus on credit access.
MB: Yes, that’s right. CEJA strove to highlight this element of support which was missing from the new CAP. Measures to improve access to credit are highly significant. With this in mind, we proposed a European Guarantee Fund for young farmers which would enable the European Investment Bank and Fund to offer guarantees to national banks for loans for young farmers who are lacking in financial backing and security at the beginning of their career. This culminated in Presidency Conclusions on this as well as other elements for young farmers being adopted in the last Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of 2014 – something we must now harness and focus on in the future.
MF: Where else have you been able to bring your influence to bear?
MB: We launched a successful strategy to raise awareness of the Russian ban on agricultural products in the summer entitled the #veggieselfie campaign. CEJA also played a big part in milk discussions following the abolition of quotas. Furthermore, we got involved in the setting up of the first European Innovation Partnership focus groups and played a key part in discussions concerning the implementation of the new CAP. CEJA also organised a number of working groups, adopted a position on improving the functioning of the food supply chain, launched a new website and published an Activity Report. We held a Presidium and General Assembly, among many other events featuring Agriculture Ministers, the Commissioner, MEPs, and a number of high-level Commission officials.. These events culminated in a cocktail reception held on the evening of the adoption of the Presidency Conclusions on young farmers which also offered us an opportunity to begin to look to future challenges in the sector.
MF: What can we expect in 2015?
MB: 2015 will be just as important for CEJA. As the brand- new CAP enters into force, we will have to watch Member State implementation closely and ensure young farmers are receiving the support they are eligible for. We will also keep a close eye on how effective this support is in achieving its aim of increasing generational renewal in the EU farming population. As well as this, we will continue discussions on a number of issues with leading young farmer representatives from across the EU in order to compile a European Young Farmer Manifesto. This, in turn, will feed into preparations for a sizeable event at the EXPO 2015 in Milan on the subject of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’. Here, CEJA will organise an event featuring leading young farmers from our organisations across Europe as well as those further afield .We will invite young farmer representatives from across the world in order to transform CEJA’s European Young Farmer Manifesto into a Global Young Farmer Manifesto. This will be the most important global event CEJA will have ever participated in, marking a growing phenomenon in terms of the mobilisation of young farmer representation across the world. There will be more information on this in the months to come, so watch this space in order to stay up to date with young farming issues across Europe!
If you would like If you would like to get in touch with Matteo Bartolini or CEJA, email email@example.com
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