The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/05/10boden_informelle_agri/
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Young farmers at the centre of the informal Agriculture meeting
European Agriculture ministers continued their informal meeting together with representatives of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) in Luxembourg on May 10th.
Separated into four working groups, ministers and young farmers discussed access to agricultural activity, the image of agriculture, training and exchanges, and the relationship between instruments of the common agricultural policy (CAP) and young farmers.
The current president of the Agriculture Council, Fernand Boden, drew attention to the fact that this was the first time young farmers had attended a Council meeting.
In fact, "the Presidency had scheduled an informal meeting […] that was actually geared towards agricultural activity and the reality on the ground and aimed to place the working meeting in the context of young farmers. From this premise developped the idea of a visit [yesterday] to an agricultural village and the idea to associate CEJA with the Council’s work."
"We all know that the common agricultural policy has changed substantially over the last 15 years. I felt it was important to analyse the problems faced by young farmers in the new context of the common agricultural policy but also in a changing society, notably in terms of what it expects of agriculture, and to come together with young people to think about how we should deal with this new context," he added.
The working groups answered precise questions drawn up by the Presidency following the analysis of a questionnaire distributed in advance to both ministers and young farmers.
The first working group, which discussed the question of access to agriculture, noted that there really was "a political willingness to ensure a true generational renewal in the years to come". "Therefore, there is a need for a sufficient number of farms and a perspective for the future for the young farmers. This requires the implementation of an active and integrated policy in three areas: vocational training, helping young farmers set up and improving agricultural income," said Dominique Bussereau, French Agriculture minister and chair of the first working group. "To encourage young people to choose the agricultural sector, we need to improve the living conditions of both the young rural population and the rural population at large," he added.
Swedish Agriculture minister Ann-Christin Nykvist reported on the second working group, which discussed the image of agriculture. There seems to be a real need to change the image of agriculture, but this will require a long process and will be up to farmers themselves, more specifically young farmers. In order to improve the public’s perception of agriculture and of farmers, we need to start in schools and highlight the strong points of European agriculture, namely product differentiation, the high quality of these same products, production methods and innovations in working methods and products. Young farmers and ministers also agreed that farmers themselves must become more active in orienting their production in relation to market demand, in becoming true entrepreneurs and in reversing the stereotype of the farmer demanding more and more subsidies.
The third working group examined questions relating to training, vocational training and exchanges. The debate was led by Austrian Agriculture minister Josef Proll, who announced that the group agreed that the CAP framework contained the political instruments for implementing the Lisbon strategy and that measures aimed at young farmers should be integrated into this framework. The group also concluded that a good general education was as important as agricultural training and that adult training programmes should also be envisaged. Ministers and young farmers agreed that it was important to promote innovation and creativity and to reinforce links between researchers and farmers insofar as these two groups had a high potential to motivate each other.
Portuguese Agriculture minister Jaime Silva, who chaired the fourth group, told the plenary session that although young people were still worried about the impact of the different reform measures, they appreciated the flexibility afforded by decoupling grants from production. Young farmers said that they understood the importance of ecoconditionality as an argument for the legitimacy of public support of agriculture and were satisfied with most of the proposals being negotiated as part of the reform of the second pillar of the CAP.
Young farmers believe that supporting them is not just a question of financing. It is a matter of helping them to set up, offering them moral support to change mindsets and the conditions and instruments to enable them to succeed in their line of business. Thus Mariann Fischer Boel, who took part in the discussions of this group, committed herself to placing the emphasis on young farmers when drawing up the strategy for rural development.