European farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos has called for mandatory support to help youngsters get a foot on the farming ladder.
Youngsters were “key to the future of European agriculture,” Mr Ciolos told a meeting organised by the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA).
European member states should agree plans obliging national governments to use EU aid to support young farmers, he said in a video message.
Commission proposals to top up aid for farmers under 40 in their first five years would be “severely weakened” unless they were mandatory, warned Mr Ciolos.
He added: “Making this an optional measure… would be a way of accepting that there is discrimination among young farmers in the EU, according to the criteria of their nationality and where in Europe they set up their farm.”
Some 10 countries – including the UK – are believed to prefer a voluntary approach to support for young entrants to farming.
CEJA President Joris Baecke said the 1st Pillar top-up should represent a mandatory 2-3% of national envelopes.
The distribution of this support should be left to individual member states to decide over the five-year start-up period, he said.
Only 7% of EU farmers were under 35-years-old, with one third of current farmers approaching retirement, said Mr Baecke.
“We cannot wait another five years for these crucial measures, or there won’t be any European farmers left for the CAP to cover.”
CEJA had highlighted the importance of the problem and proposed the appropriate solution, Mr Baecke added.
Politicians must not miss the opportunity to ensure CAP reform secured a competitive, productive and sustainable future for European agriculture.
The meeting was attended by over 150 people, including MEPs, agricultural attaches and young farmers from across Europe Co-organiser MEP Milan Zver said: “We wanted to make sure more people knew about the lack of young people in the sector and that there are solutions to remedy this problem. That is what we achieved.
“CAP reform is now in the Parliament’s hands, and it is up to us to make sure that the measures included on young farmers in the commission’s proposals are secured and improved.”