Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Common Agricultural Policy and Young Farmers: Engagement with Macra na Feirme

Mr. John Keane:

I can deal with aspects of that and I will ask Ms Richardson and Mr. Fitzgerald to come in on others. I will put figures on the first point with which Mr. Dillon dealt. There are approximately 40,000 farmers over the age of 65. A target of 15% of young farmers being under the age of 35, based on the 130,000 farmers, would equate to 19,500 farmers and 20% would be 26,000 farmers. One is looking at those kinds of numbers coming through agricultural colleges into farming in the coming years to get our percentages up. That is where we need to set the benchmark.

As for the Deputy's question on the bigger farmers getting bigger and smaller farmers going out of business, we absolutely share that concern. While we are dealing with CAP today, the Vice Chairman might allow me to digress briefly. The whole suite of policy measures being proposed, such as in respect of the nitrates directive currently being put forward or the increase in output per livestock unit, will only increase the demand for land. We are coming from a young person's point of view and this concerns all sectors. Our members who come forward from lower-income sectors, in particular, highlight to us that they simply cannot compete because the measures are not there to support them into the sector. The measures are not there to establish, because in order to do so you will need somebody's support to get into it to generate an income or the agri-taxation reliefs are not there to meet the requirement on a young farmer starting out. The measures for access to finance have to be number one and the second measure for access to land and ensuring that young farmers have that support is the most crucial part in terms of addressing that.

The Deputy's question on the 90 ha for young farmers is in the context of the young farmers scheme and the removal of the €40,000 limit on off-farm income. My understanding is that limit is now 50 ha. I stand open to correction but that is the proposal for next year.