Irish farming needs young blood

A conference in Brussels this week was told that the future of Irish and European agriculture is at stake unless specific action is taken to encourage young people into farming.

A conference in Brussels this week was told that the future of Irish and European agriculture is at stake unless specific action is taken to encourage young people into farming.

The meeting on how the upcoming reform of the CAP pos 2013 could stimulate “generational renewal” in agriculture was attended by MEPs, Commission officials and a delegation from Macra na Feirme. The conference heard that currently, less than 7 per cent of farm holders in Ireland are aged under 35, while almost a quarter of farmers are over the age of 65.

Speaking at the event, Macra’s Agricultural Affairs Chairman Kieran McEvoy said the need was never greater for a properly funded, strong CAP to support active farmers and address the age crisis in agriculture. “Young farmers need stability and visibility from the CAP, in terms of the Single Farm Payment. Specific assistance to young farmers, in the form of top-up payments made during the establishment period, is required,” he said. Mr McEvoy also spoke of the negative impact on farm transfers because of the suspension in 2009 of the early retirement and young farmers’ installation aid scheme.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said these issues were important for young farmers and must be given due consideration by the European Commission.

Defrauded investors should get €100,000 compo

Private investors who fall foul to fraudulent or defaulting investment firms could be in line to receive at least €100,000 in compensation, under new guidelines put forward by a top EU committee this week. The figure agreed by MEPs on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee is double the minimum compensation level initially proposed by the European Commission of €50,000.

The committee also made a number of other changes to the draft legislation, including a provision to allow local authorities, NGOs and private individuals to file compensation claims. And, while the Commission said a period of ten years should be allowed for compensation schemes to reach their required funding level, MEPs said just five years should be sufficient.

The committee also broke new ground by widening the permissible grounds for claiming compensation, to include cases where it is proven in court that an investment firm gave “bad advice”.

The proposed changes to the current EU rules on investor compensation schemes will now go the Council to allow member states agree a common position. Once this is achieved, MEPs in the European Parliament are due to vote on the draft text this summer.

Contamination risk of canned fish from Japan

Concerns that shoppers could be buying radiation-contaminated fish from Japan because of shortcomings in EU labelling rules were raised this week at the European Parliament. A senior member of the Fisheries Committee pointed out that EU rules on country-of-origin labelling only cover fresh fish, while canned fish and seafood need only display where processing took place, as opposed to where fish were caught. Italian MEP Guido Milana called on the European Commission to immediately improve the labelling of canned fish and other food that might have been contaminated by nuclear radiation. “Radioactivity in Japanese seawater was recently at one million times the legal limit, so this is a matter of great concern,” said Mr Milana. However Irish MEP Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, also a member of the Fisheries Committee, dismissed any risk of contaminated fish from Japan ending up in Irish shops.

“If you look at the logistics of this, the time that any fish in cans would have been caught was well before any leakage from the Japanese disaster,” said the Fianna Fáil MEP. However he accepted the need to change labelling laws so that consumers are adequately informed on where their canned fish comes from. “This should be dealt with as expeditiously as possible in order to reassure the consumer that they’re not buying contaminated fish from Japan,” he said.

Vaccination against bluetongue made easier

MEPs in Strasbourg have backed a move to update rules on the vaccination against bluetongue, a viral disease of sheep, cattle and goats that is spread by midges.

The virus has inflicted substantial losses on livestock farmers in several EU member states since the early 2000s, although the number of outbreaks has fallen significantly in recent years due to a combination of vaccinations and restrictions. Ireland has successfully retained its disease-free status despite a case of bluetongue in County Antrim in 2008, however the threat of an outbreak remains.

Under the current legislation, so-called “live attenuated” vaccinations are only permitted in specially designated zones where the disease previously occurred and which were subject to animal movement restrictions. However the new rules approved by the European Parliament due to take effect this summer will allow the use of newly-available “inactivated vaccines”. Unlike the live attenuated vaccines, the inactivated vaccines pose no virus transmission risk and could successfully be used outside areas subject to animal movement restrictions.

Welcoming the move, Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward said farmers will now have the flexibility to pro-actively tackle the threat of bluetongue disease, particularly during the summer months when an outbreak is most likely.

“The use of the inactivated vaccine in controlling and eventually eradicating the disease will reduce economic losses to the livestock sector,” he said.