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CEJA column, Issue 21, Nov 2015

In this month’s regular column from CEJA – the European Council of Young Farmers – we caught up with Alan Jagoe, the organisation’s recently-elected new President to tell us more about himself, his vision for young farmers and the role of CEJA.

MF: Congratulations on your appointment! Can you tell us a little about your background?
AJ: Thank you! I’m delighted and honoured to be elected to the role and to be able to continue the great work of my predecessor, Matteo Bartolini. I’ve been a CEJA Vice-President for the last two years and worked closely with Matteo during that time. Prior to that, I was President of the Macra na Feirme, the Irish Young Farmers organisation. As for my agricultural interests, I run a 200 ha farm in County Cork, Ireland focused on dairy and cereals.

MF: What drew you to the Young Farmers’ movement and why is it important?
AJ: As with most people, for me, it started with the desire to enjoy the social aspect – the fellowship, trying new things, going to new places, having new experiences. Then it moved on from there when I became involved on the policy side and the drive to get a good deal for young farmers. It is absolutely crucial that we have a strong and vibrant young farmer organisation. We are priming our members to be future farming leaders and the movement gives them the opportunity to experience everything that this entails.

MF: What will be your focus during your term as President?
AJ: There is a great deal of work to do in securing better access to land and to credit. These have been the two key challenges and barriers in farming for decades. It’s something CEJA has been addressing for a while and we have already made some progress but it’s going to take several Presidents and many years to change a deeply-engrained mindset – whether that’s politicians, policy-makers or even farmers themselves. It’s not going to happen overnight and we have to maintain a solid focus on these goals.

MF: What is CEJA’s role in this?
AJ: We have to be very visible and take positive action to influence policy makers on exactly what famers need. CEJA is in a great position to showcase young farmers’ work in terms of sustainable food production and environmentally-friendly practices. We have a great story to tell. Nobody in the world is producing food more efficiently than European young famers. We can be proud to promote this, demonstrate our achievements and show that we are an important sector that must be listened to.

MF: How can CEJA help young famers set up profitable enterprises?
AJ: I was recently at a conference in Milan discussing just this subject. Farmers, and young fafmers in particular, need to ensure that they operate their farms as a business. We need to be business men and business women and make a proper living from our farms. Part of CEJA’s role is to encourage this business-minded attitude and continue to inspire young farmers to be proactive and innovative in their outlook and thinking.

MF: How do you see the next few years panning out for agriculture in the EU?
AJ: Increased volatility in all sectors. The necessary tools need to be put in place at political level to combat this because farming cannot keep lurching from boom to bust. Support for the sector is essential because farmers are required to put food on the table on a daily basis. There is a whole new emphasis on food security. We can’t treat it as another commodity product and we need to secure its future if there is going to be enough for the world to eat. Quite simply, farmers can no longer be neglected or marginalised. For those farmers willing to take on the challenges ahead, there are many opportunities. And it is young famers who are in the best place to produce food in a sustainable way. They are the ones looking to the long-term and helping to find solutions in a rapidly changing world.

If you would like to get in touch with Alan Jagoe or CEJA, email allusers@ceja.eu

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