The issue of generational renewal in European agriculture is supposed to be high on the political agenda. Both the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have made it clear that supporting young farmers is crucial for the future of the sector. Young farmers in Europe today face barriers such as access to land, capital and knowledge.
As a result, specific measures have been introduced to help younger farmers through the two pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Pillar 1 provides direct payments to farmers, whilst Pillar 2 funds rural development programmes. However, a recent special report reveals that these measures require significant improvements.
On the 29th June 2017, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) released a report entitled EU support to young farmers should be better targeted to foster effective generational renewal. The aim of the report was to evaluate the effectiveness of existing support measures provided by the EU. The report analyses two mechanisms aimed directly at supporting young farmers: the 2014-2020 Pillar 1 payment to young farmers, as well as the 2007-2013 Pillar 2 measure 122 and 2014-2014 Pillar 2 measure 6.1 for setting-up of young farmers. The overall conclusions show that generational renewal is not being addressed well through these measures at present.
For Pillar 1 payments, there was found to be no clear needs assessment. Aid is provided in an annual lump sum and there is no mechanism for monitoring payments or the viability of those who receive the payments.
For Pillar 2, little evidence could be found to show the effectiveness of support measures, largely due to poor quality indicators set by the common monitoring system. It was recognised that Pillar 2 was better targeted, with applicants required to create and commit to a business plan. However, selection criteria were largely absent, and in some cases, entire budgets were used up almost immediately. This meant that younger farmers applying in later years no longer had a pot of funds to draw from.
The report gives 3 main recommendations for EU support:
1) apply needs assessments and objectives to improve the intervention logic
2) improve the targeting of the measures
3) improve the monitoring and evaluation framework
Access the full report here.