As a consequence of Europe’s aging agricultural population, a new European-wide campaign has been launched in order to raise public awareness with regards to an aging crisis. The organizer of the campaign is a non governmental  organization CEJA,  European Council of Young Farmers. The organization wants to promote the agricultural sector in order to make this sector more accessible to younger farmers.

CEJA believes that it is essential for Europe to look more closely to this generation renewal crisis and more importantly to get the CAP to modify its rules and regulations. The statistics are not very comforting: 6% of farmers are under 35 years of age while 1/3rd are over 65 and ½ are more than 55 years old. European CAP policy has not been able to stop the haemorrhage. Between 2003 and 2010 around 1000 farms have closed and the industry has lost 3 million farmers in the past 10 years. Most of the problems are attributed to the difficulty in getting access to land, access to credit and low return on investment.

The Cap is currently running the “setting up of young farmers” measure to aid young farmers. This is an optional scheme with 50/50 co-financing and is not proving very effective.   Around 3% Of CAP’s  second pillar (which deals with rural development), goes to young farmers, and this is not fully used  in most member states. The Commission proposes to allocate a maximum of 2% of the annual ceiling for direct payments to young farmers in the future CAP (maximum of 25 ha and 5 years) . This  limit of 25 ha is considered small and therefore not profitable and so is the age limit. In the 2007-10 period Cap has spent 1,7 billion without getting much result.  In order to safeguard the sustainability of farming food security, biodiversity, rural job creation  and productivity  it is necessary to change Europeans agricultural support policies.

Agriculture in the European Union will suffer unless a support mechanism for new entrants is put in place, the Eu agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos said. Each member state should set up a “sub- programme” aimed at young farmers within the rural development scheme RDP. Young farmers are left out because of the difficulties in taking over a farm, the expertise and financial capacity required. Starting up a farm today is risky and unrewarding – people who get into this sector do it for vocational reasons. Land is expensive, scarce and prices are always increasing. To buy machinery you need capital and access to credit is difficult. If you manage to start up it takes many years to get a return on the capital invested, also price volatility affects young farmers making them more vulnerable, without support it would make it unsustainable.

Safeguarding the future of Europe’s agriculture is a priority and  we therefore need to invest on a generation renewal  program that is effective.