EU support for young farmers is too often poorly defined, with no results or impact specified, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. The auditors call for the support to be better targeted in order to foster effective generational renewal.
The audit focused on the four EU Member States with the most spending on young farmers (i.e. those under 40 years of age): France, Spain, Poland and Italy. The auditors found significant differences between the management of “Pillar 1” payments, which provide an additional 25 % to young farmers on top of direct payments, and “Pillar 2” payments made to young farmers setting up for the first time.
For Pillar 1, the aid is not based on a sound needs assessment, does not reflect the general objective of encouraging generational renewal, is not always provided to young farmers in need and is sometimes provided to holdings where young farmers play only a minor role. Member States do not coordinate Pillar 1 payments with Pillar 2 support to young farmers. Aid is provided in a standardised form which does not address specific needs other than additional income. The common monitoring and evaluation framework contains no result indicators.
While Pillar 2 is generally based on a vague needs assessment, its objectives do partially reflect the general objective of encouraging generational renewal. The aid addresses more directly young farmers’ needs for access to land, capital and knowledge. The amount of aid is generally linked to needs and modulated as an incentive for specific actions (e.g. introducing organic farming, water- or energy-saving initiatives). Business plans are useful tools but were of variable quality across the Member States audited. Managing authorities did not always apply selection procedures that lent themselves to prioritising the best projects.
“Effective support for young farmers is vital if farming is to be sustainable over the generations,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “But we found little evidence about the outcome of these measures and whether they actually help young farmers, mainly because of insufficient targeting and low quality indicators.”