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Thursday, 5 June 2008 - Brussels Final edition
The future for young farmers under the ongoing reform of the CAP

European Parliament resolution of 5 June 2008 on the future for young farmers under the ongoing reform of the CAP (2007/2194(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 January 2001 on the situation and perspectives of young farmers in the European Union(1) ,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 of 20 September 2005 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)(2) ,

–   having regard to the Lisbon Strategy, which is intended to make the EU the most competitive and the most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010,

–   having regard to the outcome of the public hearing it held on 26 February 2008,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A6-0182/2008),

A.   whereas the Gothenburg Strategy establishes priorities regarding the competitiveness and sustainability of the EU economy, and young farmers can play an essential role in achieving those objectives,

B.   whereas the multifunctional model of EU agriculture can be a vector for sustainable development in rural areas, thanks to the widespread presence of farm holdings,

C.   whereas progress with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform has opened up new opportunities for young people with regard to many aspects of the process of setting up in farming and developing holdings, but those opportunities are not spread evenly across the EU, making a Community strategic approach difficult,

D.   whereas, while the lack of complete and recent statistics on the number of young farmers and their position in EU agriculture is lamentable, Eurostat data from 2003 indicates that the percentage of farmers in the EU aged under 35 was then only 7% and falling, although in future food production will have to continue to increase,

E.   whereas the forthcoming review of the CAP (CAP health check) is an opportunity which should not be missed to improve the channelling of support for young farmers,

F.   whereas, with a view to meeting the challenges of energy security and security of food supply within the EU, growth and employment in all rural areas in the EU and sustainable long-term management of rural areas, young farmers need to be set up on viable holdings in a liveable environment,

G.   whereas a multifunctional approach is required and there should, in particular, be a firm policy of support for young farmers,

H.   whereas including young people in the ownership of farms is of vital importance for rural areas, since in most rural areas economic activity and the social fabric are still underpinned by agriculture,

I.   whereas a European strategy to promote business training for young farmers appears imperative,

J.   whereas young farmers have a highly dynamic approach to decision-making, are willing to take risks, to look for synergies and complementarities and to implement highly innovative planning options over and above normal agricultural practice,

K.   whereas, even though the various policies in support of young farmers are helping to breathe new life into the EU's farming sector, generational change among farm owners remains a challenge in the EU,

L.   whereas young farmers face additional problems in the agricultural sector, such as high installation costs, a heavy burden of debt, too few available holdings and too little specific training; whereas, in addition, agricultural policy is creating more and more responsibilities for entrepreneurs with regard to cross-compliance requirements relating to such matters as the environment, animal health, animal welfare, food safety and landscape management,

M.   whereas a young and dynamic farming industry is necessary as an essential element for achieving the objectives laid down by the Lisbon Strategy,

N.   whereas under the new regulation on support for rural development, programming will be possible over the period up to 31 December 2013,

O.   whereas rural areas make up 92% of the territory of the EU, while 50% of the population now live in urban areas and 50% in rural areas,

P.   whereas generational change is necessary to preserve a high level of food quality and food safety within the EU as well as the EU's self-sufficiency in the future,

1.  Considers that one of the objectives of the reformed CAP should be to ensure better generational change in farming and that, with a view to its achievement, the first and second pillar instruments in support of sustainable farming and developed rural communities respectively are particularly complementary;

2.  Maintains that action to foster generational change in farming is essential in order to address the food, energy and territorial challenges facing EU farming today and in the future; considers that all such challenges cannot, if society's expectations are to be met, be addressed without a strong farming sector and a large number of farmers in the EU;

3.  Points out that the enlargement of the EU to take in new Member States has enhanced cultural diversity and made for greater product diversity, and that it provides an ideal opportunity to make EU agriculture more competitive by focusing on continuous innovation and the quality of Community products and by pointing to producers' achievements in the important area of food safety;

4.  Considers that, in planning and implementing support measures for young farmers, specific account should be taken of the situation of young farmers in the new Member States;

5.  Calls, therefore, on the Commission to come forward with proposals for the introduction of an EU quality label, which will allow consumers to easily identify products that were produced in accordance with the EU's strict environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards;

6.  Notes that, in the context of quality, diversity in production and products should be an objective;

7.  Notes that the main factor in renewing the farming industry's age profile is access to land, given its high cost;

8.  Takes the view that, in future, the CAP must seek to remove the barriers currently facing young people wishing to set up in farming, by making generational change one of its priorities;

9.  Calls, furthermore, for increased efforts to be made in explaining the European agricultural model, with its high standards in the field of the environment, animal welfare and food safety, to the public;

10.  Considers the setting up or taking over of farm holdings by young people to be a major asset to the enlarged EU;

11.  Draws attention to the continuing difficulties stemming from high setting-up costs, including agricultural property sale and rental prices and the need to invest continuously in tangible capital and human potential in order to make technological and logistical improvements, and to the fact that making technological and logistical improvements involves more than purchasing equipment and machines and that, for improvements to be made, research and access to research findings are essential;

12.  Calls on the Commission to support the Member States in creating a land bank on the basis of land freed up as a result of early retirement; takes the view that support should be provided for the joint acquisition of expensive machinery and equipment which is used infrequently by each individual farmer;

13.  Calls for a review of setting-up support, which has remained at the same level since its introduction and which no longer appears to meet farmers' needs;

14.  Emphasises the contribution made by land prices to the problems experienced by young people setting up in farming and calls on the Commission to look into the considerable increase in land prices brought about by, among other things, urban pressures and speculation;

15.  Recommends the introduction of instruments enabling priority in respect of agricultural land transfers to be given to young farmers setting up in business rather than to existing farmers wishing to increase the size of their holdings, including an early-retirement mechanism, deferred-purchase aid, phased setting-up arrangements and rental of part of the land;

16.  Notes the need to make young farmer setting-up support policies more effective as well as the importance of laying down further criteria for the ranking of beneficiaries by order of priority, taking account of objective factors;

17.  Urges the Commission, in its legislative proposal on the CAP health check, to propose that the aid for young farmers provided for in the legislation on rural development should figure among the compulsory measures included in the plans drawn up by the Member States, which should also be accompanied by an increase in the amount of setting-up support;

18.  Considers that support measures for young farmers should also support newcomers, as they can be a renewing and valuable addition to EU farming; notes, therefore, that support should primarily be channelled towards new entrepreneurs rather than to those leaving farming; stresses that support measures for the taking-over of farms must not distort competition between newcomers on the one hand and farmers' sons and daughters on the other hand;

19.  Notes that it is particularly important to prevent the desertification of disadvantaged farming areas in keeping with the EU's territorial cohesion objective, to make it easier for young farmers to set up in business in areas with a permanent natural disadvantage, such as islands and mountain areas, where development, construction and access costs are higher and where it is often necessary to diversify in order to achieve a sufficient degree of viability;

20.  Calls on the Commission to investigate the effectiveness and added value of the various national and EU measures to assist young farmers and report on the subject by 1 July 2009;

21.  Observes that many young farmers regard investment support and interest subsidies as the most effective means of encouraging their entrepreneurship and improving their competitive position; calls on the Commission and the Member States to devote appropriate attention to support and subsidies;

22.  Calls on the Commission to conduct a study into the effect that production rights, single-payment rights and premium rights have on young farmers setting up, because all such instruments are a frequent cause of conflict between generations, making it more difficult for young people wishing to set up in farming to gain access to those rights themselves; takes the view that the Commission should draw the necessary conclusions as regards management of the CAP, with a view to putting young people in a better position to set up in farming;

23.  Notes that, in order to take better account of the increased cost of taking over farms and the difficulties involved in setting up in problem farming areas, the Community aid ceiling should be raised from EUR 55 000, and the time limit for achieving compliance with the rules should be increased from three years to five years after set-up;

24.  Notes that farming is very often the last activity to survive in rural areas and that incentives for young people to set up in farming should therefore be introduced; points out, however, that, over and above the need for holdings to be viable, efforts are also required to make the rural environment a place in which people wish to live, by fostering equal access to public services (post offices, schools, public transport, health services, etc.) and maintaining normal service provision (shops and trades, childcare facilities, care facilities for the elderly, social housing, rental accommodation, etc.) and social amenities to prevent people from feeling isolated (cafés, community centres, sports centres, etc.);

25.  Stresses that arrangements enabling young farmers to leave their holdings for training, holidays, births, etc. need to be put in place;

26.  Welcomes the provision made for the granting of setting-up support to young farmers, even for partial set-ups, to be made conditional on the submission, on a voluntary basis, of a business plan, as an instrument which, over time, will enable the development of their farming and non-farming activities, linked to rural areas, on their new farms;

27.  Recommends that, as part of the incentive scheme for initial setting up, provision should be made for incentives for owners who rent farms to young farmers and/or for rent support until the tenth year after setting up;

28.  Draws attention to the difficulties experienced by young people wishing to set up in farming in gaining access to funding, and to the useful role played by subsidised loan arrangements in enabling young farmers to set up and continue in farming without incurring an excessive amount of debt;

29.  Notes that the high level of indebtedness and high installation costs of young farmers makes it very difficult for them to establish a good competitive position; calls on the Commission and Member States therefore to devise additional solutions to these specific problems;

30.  Takes the view that young farmers' entrepreneurialism should be supported through transparent, simpler and less cumbersome rules and through the lower costs that this would entail;

31.  Believes, therefore, that the Member States and regional authorities should examine the options for introducing or improving schemes to provide start-up capital to new farmers at preferential rates;

32.  Deplores the influence, at the same time, of speculative or structural factors preventing an adequate return from being earned on land, labour and capital, such as the security required on loans, high interest rates, legal and tax barriers, social security charges and administrative charges, and considers that suitable policy measures are necessary in order to reduce excesses and distortions of competition;

33.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop new (fiscal) measures to help young farmers carry the heavy interest costs which they face following the procurement of their farms; calls on the Commission to come up with specific proposals to that end within the framework of the CAP health check;

34.  Calls for such measures in support of young farmers to be made compulsory as part of the action provided for under Axis 1 in Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 with a view to improving the competitiveness of the farming sector;

35.  Reaffirms its opinion that rural development measures should be aimed directly at farmers;

36.  Considers that the Commission must examine specific financing for young farmers in Axes 2 and 3 of the rural development policy, for example with regard to social infrastructure and improving the employment rate among young people in rural areas;

37.  Calls for setting-up support for farmers carrying out multifunctional activities (farming and non-farming) to be extended to allow access to initial setting-up support for young farmers who carry out farming activities only, or who complement them with other income-generating activities in rural areas;

38.  Calls on the Member States to allow access to initial setting-up support for young people, both men and women, who are in a precarious situation as regards ownership and require such support to adapt their farms, either by carrying out farming activities or by complementing them with other income-generating activities, so that they provide them with a livelihood measured in terms of available income and work;

39.  Believes that young EU farmers should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field within the EU; calls, therefore, for cautious revision and subsequent implementation, of the current Article 69 of Council Regulation 1782/2003(3) so as to prevent any distortion of competition on the EU internal market;

40.  Calls for all agricultural and rural development policies to be made fully coherent with the objectives which the EU has set itself as part of the Lisbon Strategy, so as to enable young farmers to operate in a dynamic economic environment;

41.  Takes the view that, as part of the CAP health check, action should be taken to foster more stable and secure farm incomes – an essential pre-condition for generational change in farming – through the introduction at EU level of innovative risk and crisis-management tools to address market fluctuations and increased price volatility;

42.  Believes that priority should be given to securing genuine simplification and greater transparency in the implementation of instruments and measures for young farmers carrying out farming activities, even where they are complemented by other non-farming activities linked to rural areas which are necessary for the farm's viability;

43.  Points out that farmers who are no longer classified as young farmers but will continue to farm in the medium term and who are also facing new challenges, should not be disadvantaged;

44.  Points out that, because of the great demands on tomorrow's managers, curricular training must be systematically stepped up to ensure genuine knowledge transfer from agrarian research to farming;

45.  Considers, in respect of succession arrangements, that consideration should be given to introducing legislation that focuses more closely on keeping farms together, with a view to achieving both economies of scale and economies of scope; points out that succession arrangements involving parties who are not family members should be facilitated in order to preserve farms and to enable young entrepreneurs with an education in farming to become farmers;

46.  Takes the view that national early-retirement arrangements should apply only where the retiring farmer's holding is taken over by a young farmer, or, alternatively, that the retiring farmer should be entitled to an improved pension where this happens;

47.  Takes the view that overall setting-up and holding-development plans should include special measures relating to the statutory recognition of young farmers, thus ensuring equal social rights for men and women; considers it vital, in this regard, to maintain certain essential services in rural areas, such as crèches, kindergartens and help for mothers; draws particular attention, in this connection, to the importance of providing information about the status of partners assisting farmers;

48.  Points out that social and cultural specificity and diversity are key factors in product promotion policy, as are the identification of a specific geographical area and excellence in production methods, as illustrated by the reputation and success of agricultural products with protected designations of origin or that are labelled;

49.  Points out that food education, which young farmers can provide, fosters good eating habits for the benefit of human health and society in general, and expressly welcomes such activities as, for instance, the 'Tellus' programme of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) and transnational model projects such as 'Schüler auf dem Bauernhof' ('Pupils on farms');

50.  Highlights the need for expert information for food science studies and dietetics in all forms of education;

51.  Believes that measures should be taken to promote the farming profession and its services to society in addition to its production activities, with a view to attracting more young people to the profession, especially young people from non-farming backgrounds;

52.  Believes that the promotion of the farming profession should also entail improved communication with the general public and hence consumers on the content of the CAP, as regards health, environmental and animal welfare requirements, the conditionality of aid, multifunctionality, EU product quality, the contribution to combating climate change, food self-sufficiency and the food challenges for a world population which is estimated to reach nine billion by 2050;

53.  Calls for Community preference to be stepped up in order to provide European consumers with guarantees in respect of the health and environmental standards of products which they buy and to provide compensation for EU farmers subject to competition from third countries that do not meet the same health, environmental and social standards;

54.  Takes the view that young farmers should be placed in the best possible position to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a greater flexibility in demand for farming-related goods and services, together with a greater opening up of emerging markets around the world with a view to the conclusion of the multilateral negotiations; considers it important, therefore, that the Commission should negotiate a WTO agreement which gives farmers enough scope to be able to continue to compete with third countries and which thus guarantees a future for young farmers; considers the inclusion of non-trade concerns to be of crucial importance in this connection;

55.  Believes that young farmers should be able to compete with foreign competitors on a level playing field; calls therefore on the Commission for priority to be given to recognition of the non-trade concerns (NTC) as import criteria in multilateral, as well as bilateral, trade negotiations;

56.  Notes that, as part of medium- to long-term planning arrangements, the new generation of farmers is shouldering responsibility with regard to combating climate change, is acting in partnership with the environment and, by providing environment-friendly energy sources, in particular by producing biomass and operating biogas plants, is actively contributing to protecting the environment and reducing CO2;

57.  Notes that young farmers face the dual challenge of implementing measures to improve farming practices and make them both more sustainable and more viable, whilst at the same time restoring agriculture's crucial role in managing environmental aspects and thereby becoming a leading player in tackling climate change; stresses that, to this end, policies and measures need to offer long-term and sustainable prospects for young farmers and financial support must be granted for their efforts to protect the environment;

58.  Notes that farming and forestry are the only economic activities which, through photosynthesis, capture carbon dioxide, which makes it all the more necessary to maintain farming activity;

59.  Stresses the importance of shifting the focus of agricultural research in line with the CAP reform, promoting technology transfers and improving farmers' access to research findings and the latest innovations relating to production methods and tools; considers it necessary for EU farmers to have better access to the results of research through the creation of networks for exchanging data obtained from research and the coordination of research at national and EU level;

60.  Notes that exchange between science and those who apply it is essential so that research findings are put into practice and research can meet the needs of the agricultural sector;

61.  Stresses that it is in the EU's interests, economically (improving productivity) and environmentally (updating knowledge of 'green' practices) to provide increased support for lifelong training for farmers; encourages, in particular, programmes to promote mobility among young farmers in the EU (including Leonardo); stresses, more especially, to need to set up instruments that will enable young farmers to be absent from their farms for the duration of such training;

62.  Proposes that an agricultural best-practice exchange programme be set up for young farmers;

63.  Considers it necessary to establish an exchange programme for young farmers to facilitate the pooling of best practices, as well as a training network in which information on issues such as sustainability, bio-energy, climate change and competitiveness is central; considers that this should prepare young farmers for their task in facing the new challenges in the fields of agriculture and food;

64.Calls for the elaboration of a pilot project to facilitate an exchange programme between young farmers in developing countries and young farmers in the EU to enable them to gain firsthand understanding of the functioning of their respective markets, of their respective use of technology and their methods of adapting to the prevailing climatic conditions;

65.  Suggests that farming methods rooted in specific geographical areas and cultural traditions in the EU should be conserved, improved and promoted;

66.  Believes that the subject of the maintenance of agricultural property is closely linked to that of young farmers' setting-up arrangements and that a policy should be introduced to ensure that priority in the allocation of land is given to young farmers setting up; calls on the Commission to report on the agricultural property issue in relation to young people taking over farms;

67.  Takes the view that more effective support should be provided for the setting-up of company-based structures by introducing special measures for this type of setting-up arrangement that will not only reduce setting-up costs for the young people concerned but also enable them to organise their work in such a way as to increase the viability of farms;

68.  Recommends that more flexibility be introduced in farm setting-up and transfer procedures through the following: gradual setting-up, consideration for the validation of previous professional experience where the person wishing to set up does not have the required qualifications, waiver of the age requirement where the applicant submits a viable setting-up project, particularly in disadvantaged agricultural areas, etc.;

69.  Considers that the necessary measures should be adopted to support, accompany and advise young farmers under the initial setting-up scheme with the aim of increasing the success rate and at the same time minimising or putting an end to situations where farmers give up or even become bankrupt;

70.  Proposes the designation of a European year of urban-rural dialogue;

71.  Calls on the Commission to provide across-the-board backing for young people willing to enter farming by pursuing a reliable policy, making administrative arrangements reflect conditions on the ground, and maximising management support;

72.  Calls on the Commission to submit an interim report on the situation of young farmers, and consult the relevant young-farmer organisations in due course;

73.  Stresses that young farmers should be given support in the years following their setting-up and that a special reserve fund should be established to help them deal with unforeseeable circumstances at the time of setting up, such as damage to crops due to extreme weather or a sharp increase in costs;

74.  Calls on the Commission to study methods for sharing best practice in innovative farming techniques and farm management among new farmers throughout the EU;

75.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ C 262, 18.9.2001, p. 153.
(2) OJ L 277, 21.10.2005, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 270, 21.10.2003, p. 1.

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