In response to our three-part investigation, we spoke to both Alan Jagoe, President of CEJA, and Sean Finan, Presient of Macra na Feirme. In light of our reports into problems facing young farmers, it seems that the opinion of the Department’s actions is mixed.
Macra President Sean Finan
Regarding Creed’s apparent submission to the EU for ‘Specific Disadvantage’ funding, Macra President Finan believes that insufficient action has been taken so far.
“In the case of the farmers who are missing out on entitlements because of the Five Year Rule, we fully support their case and have on numerous occasions called on the government to make a submission for this funding.”
As we’ve described in our report, the National Reserve can only fund Forgotten/Old Young Farmers after the mandatory ‘Young Farmer’ and ‘New Entrant’ categories are prioritised. Creed has alluded to having already submitted a claim for ‘specific disadvantage’ funding, which would be allocated to Old Young Farmers/Forgotten Farmers if approved by the EU Commission.
Michael Fitzmaurice TD has said that those within the EU with whom he spoke to in June 2016 said that a submission would be welcomed; however, Creed says he was met with a vague and poor response after submitting his specific disadvantage claim.
“It’s my understanding that a submission hasn’t been sent yet; I could be wrong, and I’m due to meet with Creed in the next few weeks, but from the last I’ve heard of it officially, no submission has been made," says Finan.
“We understand it might be a work in progress, but as far as I’m aware, it hasn’t happened. If so, then we’re asking why it hasn’t happened; it’s something that we hope is dealt with very soon. We do hope that Creed has acted on the promises within the Programme for Government.”
With the help of Ciaran Staunton and Matt Carthy, we found that the Green Cert was not traceable back to EU regulations, and that the enforcement of a Green Cert is at the discretion of EU Member States.
Sean Finan believes that since educational requirements are listed as an option in EU regulation, Minister Creed was likely within his rights to enforce the Green Cert as a necessary part of the Young Farmers scheme.
He also says that it’s his understanding that once a Member State has decided to enforce such a rule, then the EU will ensure they stand by it. He believes this could be the source of the ‘inflexibility’ cited by Minister Creed when pressed on the issue of thousands of young farmers left without entitlements.
“Macra support the existence of the Green Cert, and believes education to be a principle foundation of the values of Macra.”
On the issue of the National Reserve’s fund, That’s Farming has received figures on sales of entitlements without land versus leases of entitlements without land. As explored in our report with the help of Ciaran Staunton, we have reason to believe that a different claw-back system on the movement of entitlements without land would solve the National Reserve’s problems.
We asked Macra’s Sean Finan what he thought of the suggested solution, whereby a 25% claw-back be garnered from both leases and sales, instead of a lease claw-back exception and 50% claw-back on sales.
According to our figures, we see that less than €14,000 was put into the Reserve through claw-back from sales of entitlements without land. This has encouraged thousands of farmers in each county to lease instead of sell, because current tax incentives mean leasing doesn’t have any claw-backs.
That’s Farming reports that if a 25% claw-back was introduced on sales and leasing in 2016, then an approximate €4.7 million would be in the National Reserve.
Finan says that he was previously unaware of what these figures suggested, in that this avenue for potential National Reserve funding hasn’t been explored just yet.
He says that although leasing incentives are positive, since they encourage the movement of land between generations etc., it’s very important to Macra that a National Reserve for 2017 be created.
Here at That’s Farming, we hope that our researched suggestions in collaboration with Ciaran Staunton are considered by the government.
CEJA President Alan Jagoe
Mr. Jagoe, President of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), says that he is in favour of an educated work force within the farming community. This is in response to That’s Farming close look into the source of the Green Cert.
Jagoe says that although CEJA, and also Macra of which he is a former president, are in support of educating young farmers through the Cert, there is a possible interpretational issue happening within the Irish government.
“The issue of the Green Cert does seem to be very much an Irish issue; the problem whereby there are farmers left without entitlements doesn’t seem to be happening in other countries with my EU colleagues,” explains Jagoe.
“I think it could be caused by Ireland’s own way of interpreting the EU regulation, and I believe it’s an issue that could be easily resolved.”