The proposed rate of grant aid under the young farmers scheme in the next CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 looks set to more than double, with a proposed payment of €170/ha on a maximum of 50ha.

This compares to the current average payment of €68 per activated entitlement under the Young Farmers Scheme 2015-2022. A farmer drawing down the maximum payment now stands to potentially receive up to €8,500.

The changes proposed under the Complementary Income Support for Young Farmers (CISYF), which is the new name for the scheme, are built around a larger allocation of Pillar I funds.

Some 3.5% of the direct payments ceiling equating to approximately €35m per annum is being ringfenced for young farmers, with the European Commission targeting an improved trend of generational renewal.

The Department of Agriculture outlined high -level details of the CISYF in a webinar held on the Young Farmers Scheme on Tuesday night. Fran Morrin, the Department of Agriculture’s principal officer with responsibility for CAP entitlements and financial controls, told viewers that the figures are not fully finalised but that they should not deviate too much from €170/ha.

The other big change outlined on the night was the fact that payments will now be paid on eligible hectares rather than linked to entitlement values. This removes the need for farmers to obtain entitlements.

Current participants

The CISYF will operate for a five-year period, with farmers applying each year via their Basic Income Support for Sustainability (replaces the BPS) application. Farmers who are currently participating in the Young Farmers Scheme and who will not have received five years payment at the end of 2022 can roll over to the new scheme for the rest of their five years. For example, a farmer who receives payment in 2022 and 2021 can receive three years of higher payment under the incoming scheme.

The Department outlined that there will be no guarantee on payments beyond 2027 for those participants who do not have five years completed by the end of 2027 but commented that it is likely that there will be a scheme present given the importance of supporting young farmers.

National reserve

The facility will still be available for farmers to apply for entitlements from the National Reserve. This is a separate scheme to the CISYF and will be funded by a 3% cut in funding the national Basic Income Support for Sustainability pot of money. The scheme will continue as is currently in place and provide an allocation of entitlements at the national average (likely to be €150 to €155 per entitlement unit) on eligible lands for which the young farmer holds no entitlements or top up low-value entitlements held by the young farmer to the national average.

Eligibility criteria

The eligibility criteria is expected to be similar to the current Young Farmers Scheme, with no significant changes envisaged. These eligibility criteria were outlined on the night and are summarised below:

  • She/he has submitted a valid 2023 Basic Payment Scheme application under a herd number on which the applicant is included.
  • She/he is aged no more than 40 years of age at any time during the calendar year in which they first submit an application under the Basic Payment Scheme.
  • She/he has successfully completed a recognised course of education in agriculture giving rise to an award at FETAC Level 6 or its equivalent by 16 May 2023.
  • She/he is setting up as the head of an agricultural holding for the first time or has set up such a holding during the five years preceding the first submission of the Basic Payment Scheme application.
  • Group participation

    The terms and conditions outline that for eligibility of young farmer(s) in a group – ie a young farmer undertakes the farming activity as part of a group (eg in a joint herd number, a registered farm partnership or a company) – the group will be considered eligible for the Young Farmers Scheme if the following conditions are met.

  • At least one person in the group must meet the definition of Young Farmer as outlined above.
  • That Young Farmer must exercise effective and long-term control either solely or jointly within the group in terms of decisions related to the management, benefits and financial risks of the group. Such control is demonstrated as follows:
  • The young farmer’s name is on the herd number.

    The young farmer’s name is on the bank account used for the purposes of the receipt of payments under the Basic Payment Scheme and Young Farmers Scheme.

    Companies only – the young farmer must be a director and minimum 20% shareholder in the company.

  • The secretary as listed in the B1 annual return for the application year may complete the NR/YFS Declaration form confirming that the young farmer has effective control, either solely or jointly with the other members of the group. Where the declaration form is not signed by the secretary, all of the directors must sign the declaration form.
  • All persons who participate in the group must complete a National Reserve/Young Farmers Scheme Declaration form confirming that the young farmer has effective control, either solely or jointly with the other members of the group.
  • The Department stressed on the night that in the case of a scheme inspection farmers must be able to demonstrate that they are integrally involved in the farm and demonstrate knowledge for all relevant farming enterprises on the holding.
  • Questions and answers and webinar watch back

    The Department fielded an extensive number of questions on the night and these will be summarised on this weekend, along with an overview of the inspection process.

    The webinar was also recorded and the Department says it will be made available for playback in the coming weeks. Below is an example of one of the most commonly asked questions on the night.

    Q I am 39 years of age and turn 40 on 31 August 2023. I am currently completing my Green Cert and will be finished my studies in May 2023. I have been left land and am in the process of applying for a herd number. Am I eligible to apply for the young farmers scheme on age and education grounds?

    A. As you will be no more than 40 in 2023, you are OK with regards the age limit. Education has to be fully completed by the closing date of the scheme (16 May). This includes all exams, practicals, course work, etc.

    Exams do not have to be corrected and in such a situation there is a form available that must be completed with your course provider and submitted with your application.

    The application will be lodged and will be progressed once your results are available and we are updated with your agricultural qualification.