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CEJA column, Issue 24, Feb 2016

In this month’s regular column from CEJA – the European Council of Young Farmers – President Alan Jagoe outlines the CEJA work plan for 2016.

MF: You are still a young Presidency with only a few months at the helm but you have already been hard at work.

AJ: Yes! We have developed and adopted a CEJA work plan for the rest of 2016. This will lead to concrete outcomes on a number of issues by the beginning of 2017 and eventually a substantial Policy Paper on the future of EU Agricultural Policy planned for the end of our Presidency mandate, around June 2017. The common theme running through all discussions will be how we can change the current EU Agricultural Policy framework to accommodate these needs over the coming years.

MF: How did you develop the work plan?

AJ: We started by asking our members to submit their contributions on what they would like to see prioritised in the CEJA Agenda for 2016. We also wanted a discussion on how working methods can be improved to maximize Member involvement and impact at EU-level. These contributions from Members were discussed at a full-day working group meeting of young farmer delegates from across Europe in Brussels at the end of November 2015. The work programme for 2016 was officially adopted by unanimous acclamation at CEJA’s first working group of 2016 in January.

MF: What is aim of the work programme?

AJ: The objective is to gather information, ideas and perspectives from a variety of different policymakers, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations), academics, stakeholders and others in order to inspire and guide our leading young farmer representatives when thinking about the future of the EU agricultural sector. We hope that such input from high-level, experienced and informed speakers will stimulate lively debate and intelligent and original ideas for solutions and policy measures to address the biggest challenges facing young people attempting to enter the sector today, as well as those trying to stay afloat in it.

MF: What were some of the first actions?

AJ: In January we invited Agricultural Minister-Counsellors from other regions of the world to present their own agricultural support systems to our members. These included the USA, Canada and Australia as well as a country closer to home – but relevant because it is not a member of the EU – Switzerland. It highlighted many policies and measures which are currently not used in Europe, particularly in the context of mitigating price crises and safeguarding farmers’ livelihoods in the worst of times. The results of our discussions will feed into a young farmer position on the future of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2020.

MF: What’s next?

AJ: The next CEJA working group meeting will take place in Cologne, Germany. The group will focus on an evaluation of the current CAP, whether it is delivering on its objectives (especially on measures for young farmers) and what can be improved for the future. This meeting will feature an academic expert on EU-level agricultural policy who will provide a theoretical perspective of whether the current CAP is succeeding in its aims. This will be closely linked to the next working group theme which will focus on the definition of ‘active farmer’ in the current regulation. This is seen as a major stumbling block in the way of an effective agricultural support system in Europe by young farmers. A discussion will follow on best practices across the EU with regard to access to land and credit, alongside the CEJA General Assembly 2016 in June. Hopefully, by that point we will have a complete picture of young farmers’ needs from future Policy at EU-level.

MF: What else is under discussion?

AJ: Further working group meetings will be held in the Autumn. At least one of these meetings will take place in conjunction with a visit to Massey Ferguson’s facilities in Beauvais, France where our young farmers will be given an insight into the company and its vision for the future of farming. These meetings will focus on more specific issues such as research and innovation; environment and risk management/market tools.

MF: Why are these topics especially relevant?

AJ: Young farmers are best-placed to foster innovation and sustainability because of their open-mindedness, technological capacity and high levels of education in comparison to their older counterparts. However, for this to happen, more young people need to be able to enter the sector and afford to make the necessary investments for such innovations. Young farmers are also sensitive to environmental issues, and feel the need to communicate better on the contribution that European agriculture makes to sustainability and climate change mitigation. CEJA also believes that environmental support is essential within the EU agricultural policy, and plans to learn more on this subject from other relevant stakeholders and how they see the future of EU farming. Finally, young farmers are particularly vulnerable to market volatility and price fluctuations, and therefore we need to find solutions to the current crises by learning from other systems in order to provide our farming population with more security and stability in future.

MF: What will be the result of these activities?

AJ: All of these meetings will then feed into a dialogue at CEJA level between our members and other stakeholders to produce a concrete policy document outlining the vision of the CAP2020 from European young farmers’ perspectives. I believe that these working methods will lead to a hugely important position being taken by young farmers by the end of our Presidency mandate. I look forward to telling you more about what we learn as the year goes on!

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

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