Pressure is mounting on the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine to release details of its long-awaited scheme for ‘Forgotten Farmers’.
Among them this week are representatives of the rural youth organisation, Macra, and Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Claire Kerrane.
As per the DAFM’s official definition, a ‘forgotten farmer’ is a term used to describe young farmers who had typically established their agricultural holdings before 2008, who were under the age of 40 in 2-15, but who did not qualify for the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) supports as other young farmers did.
Farmers in this cohort were unable to qualify for young farmer support introduced under the CAP in 2015 because, in many of their cases, they had been farming for five years or more.
In recent weeks, That’s Farming’s editor, Catherina Cunnane, once again, following this correspondence, contacted the DAFM in relation to the matter.
A spokesperson told this publication, www.thatsfarming.com:
“The DAFM is working to open a scheme as soon as possible, and this will be announced once all the preparations as outlined in the answer are complete.”
Forgotten Farmers still waiting
On the back of this, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Claire Kerrane, has urged Minister McConalogue to set out details of his DAFM’s proposed scheme for Forgotten Farmers.
Teachta Kerrane raised the matter with the minister in the Dáil during priority questions and queried when details on the scheme would be outlined.
She said: “The cohort of young Farmers known as the Forgotten Farmers have been repeatedly told that a scheme is coming, yet they are still waiting.”
“The minister had previously indicated that proposals would be made public in the first quarter of this year; that has now come and gone.”
“Today, in response to me, the Minister stated that a ‘preliminary outline’ of the scheme to support Forgotten Farmers has already been prepared by his department. He then went on to say that there are a number of options on the table.”
“The minister confirmed that he will be going back to his department to seek an update on the progress being made on this issue.”
“When pushed for a timeframe, the minister stated it will be a number of months. This is really unacceptable.”
“I understand this is a complex issue, and it is essential the department get the details of the scheme right. Setting out the eligibility requirements and getting them right is critical.”
She said that farmers have waited far too long for a solution, and they are still waiting. These are farmers, she outlined, who have already lost out financially.
They have been left in limbo for years, and they have been put in a “really vulnerable position”, with many left questioning whether they can “hang on any longer”.
Details of the scheme must now be provided without delay, the TD stressed.
Echoing the call were Macra national president Elaine Houlihan and Agriculture Affairs Chair, Liam Hanrahan, during the Taoiseach’s roundtable meeting with farm organisations to discuss policy priorities from the farming organisations earlier this week.
Houlihan believes “we need to see action sooner rather than later”.
“We welcome the assurances that the ‘Forgotten Farmers’ issue will not be left unresolved. We were assured in October that a scheme was forthcoming, and it has yet to be delivered,” she explained.
“These forgotten farmers can wait no longer with rising input and energy costs. Many investments have been put on hold with the commitments by the minister; the time to deliver meaningful supports for these farmers is now.”
“This is a matter that Macra is deeply committed to seeing resolved. Macra has continually lobbied on behalf of the ‘Forgotten Farmers’ to seek the support which they fairly deserve.”
“It is now more than fifteen years since some of these farmers started out in their farming careers, and it is simply not good enough that the mistakes around the removal of supports have not been rectified,” she concluded.