EU funds for young farmers ‘not being well targeted’

30 Jun 17

European Union funds intended to support young farmers are not being well targeted or linked to any defined outcomes or results, auditors have found.

 

A special report from the European Court of Auditors, published yesterday, examined the support given to young farmers (those aged under 40) in four EU member states: France, Spain, Poland and Italy.

There has been a rapid fall in the number of farmers working across the EU, from 14.5 million in 2005 to 10.7 million in 2013. At the same time, the number of young farmers dropped from 3.3 million to 2.3 million.

Over the 2007-2020 period, a total of €9.6bn has been earmarked to support young people to stay in or to start farming and so ensure generational renewal. Almost 200,000 young farmers received EU support between 2007 and 2013.

The ECA probe found significant differences between the management of Pillar 1 payments – which give young farmers an additional 25% on top of their direct payments – and Pillar 2 payments, which are for young people setting up in farming for the first time.

For Pillar 1, the auditors said the aid provided was not based on a sound needs assessment, didn’t always get to young farmers in need and was sometimes paid to farms where young people had only a minor role. No result indicators are included in the common monitoring framework.

Pillar 2 payments were somewhat better targeted, with spending addressing more directly young farmers’ needs for access to land, capital and knowledge. However, business plans submitted by start-up farmers as they apply for funds were of variable quality across the member states audited.

Janusz Wojciechowski, the ECA member responsible for the report, said: “Effective support for young farmers is vital if farming is to be sustainable over the generations.

“But we found little evidence about the outcome of these measures and whether they actually young farmers, mainly because of insufficient targeting and low-quality indicators.”

He urged member states and the EU to define whom they wish to support and the expected results of any assistance, so progress and achievements can be properly measured.

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