The number of young farmers in Europe today is falling fast. We have reached a point where only 6 per cent of farmers across the European Union are under the age of 35. The situation is even worse in members states like Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom, where the young represent less than 3 per cent of the entire farming community. This state of affairs is reaching breaking point, with five times as many farmers over the age of 65 than there are farmers under the age of 35 – this cannot continue for long.
With so little influx of youth into European agriculture, the sector could soon lose much of its competitiveness on a global market. Young farmers' representatives consider that nothing less than future food security and the vitality of rural areas across Europe is at risk. If nothing is done about the significant lack of generational renewal in the sector, European food production will be hit particularly hard as many elderly farmers retire. This is an aspect of food security that has been very much neglected.
With the Common Agricultural Policy currently being reformed for 2014-2020, there is a window of opportunity to counteract these developments and to prioritise this key age group in EU agricultural policy. If action isn’t taken now, European agriculture will not be able to face present and future challenges such as increased environmental protection, job creation, biodiversity conservation and above all, food security.
In order to raise awareness of this issue among the general public and policymakers alike, CEJA – the European Council of Young Farmers – has recently launched a campaign entitled “Future Food Farmers” which I am happy to endorse. With the support of European Commissioners, MEPs and key stakeholders in the sector, CEJA aims to reverse the negative demographic trend that is common to all Member States of the European Union and help young farmers to secure the future of European agriculture.
Everyone can express their support for the cause by taking the campaign’s online pledge, and join public figures like the President of the EESC Staffan Nilsson, Commissioners Dacian Cioloş, Janusz Lewandowski and Janez Potočnik, as well as MEPs Paolo De Castro, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos and George Lyon in their efforts to keep EU agriculture alive. The online pledge is here: Pledge
The campaign video can be viewed here: Young farmers