In this month’s regular column from CEJA – the European Council of Young Farmers – President Alan Jagoe brings us up to date on a recent workshop which looked at how farming can be sustained through the generations.
MF: Can you give us some background on the workshop?
AJ: Under the title Generational Renewal through Rural Development, we held the workshop jointly on 25 January alongside the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD). We wanted to bring forward the pressing matters of sustaining farming throughout the generations. We had the pleasure of hosting European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, who vocalised his support for change, and for CEJA’s determination for a sustainable future for the agriculture sector in the difficult coming years. The day-long event gave a chance to get to the heart of renewal issues.
MF: What was the key point of your speech during the workshop?
AJ: European Farmers have been a necessary part of the growth and prosperity of the bloc, and all those farmers who have gone before us have served Europe in a way that needs to be acknowledged. These are people who have worked long and hard, and they have made something important. However, now many are at a stage in their lives where they would like to take a step back. It’s imperative that we develop a method to do so, and that’s where generational renewal comes in. To put it plainly, generational renewal in agriculture needs to be considered as a precondition for maintaining viable food production and improving the competitiveness of the sector. We need new entrants to take over from retiring farmers, to invest and in some cases modernise their methods and output.
This is the time to move our focus towards Generational Renewal in the face of a reform on Common Agriculture Policy that aims to shake up how the sector is handled in Europe.
MF: What are the problems currently faced?
AJ: We’re in a situation where good agricultural land is scarce, where young farmers depend on the transfer of land from farms that already exist. If their farms are to become more modern and competitive, they also need support for initial investments, access to loans, business advice and training. The workshop event featured presentations of best practices from three young farmers from across member states who showed the conference how the rural development programme helped them in their daily lives. It’s examples like this that we need to bring to the front of the discussion, how people on the ground – or the farm – are interacting with the current programmes, and how they can change.
MF: What else can be done?
AJ: Policy makers are aware of the need for debate, but we can still do more. Facilitating generational renewal in the agricultural sector is a proposed focus area for Rural Development policy in the period 2014-2021, and that’s the core meaning of events like this. As the permanent representation of young farmers in Europe, CEJA openly seeks to encourage farmers from all backgrounds to come together, to network and to share experiences during our regular working groups, meetings, seminars and farm visits.
MF: Is there cause to be optimistic?
AJ: We are pushing forward into a new age of reforms in the agricultural sector in Europe. Generational renewal is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and rightfully so. We’re in a landscape where the challenges and barriers facing young farmers can seem insurmountable without the proper support - and we want to support. Europe is a rapidly changing environment, and the challenges and situations currently facing us can seem daunting, but I do have hope. Considering the high level of interest from member stakeholders and the considerable number of young farmers who travelled from across Europe to engage with us, I think I can safely say that CEJA members and I look forward to playing our part in further discussions on the future of Europe.
If you would like to get in touch with Alan Jagoe, email email@example.com
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