What might the European parliamentary elections mean for farming? In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), Massey Ferguson speaks to President, Matteo Bartolini about the possible outcomes and finds out more about CEJA’s latest campaign to target the new parliament.
MF: The European elections are just around the corner (22-25 May). Can you tell us a little more about them and why they are important?
MB: If you are a citizen of the European Union, then you are eligible to vote for one of your MEP candidates. 751 MEPs will then be elected to represent you and your region in the European Parliament for the next five years. They will have the power to amend, approve or reject a majority of EU legislation. The number of MEPs is in fact decreasing this year from the current number of 766 to 751 (750 MEPs and a President). Although you may still think 750 is a high number, it is not a lot to represent over 500 million citizens! We are yet to get a clear idea of the anticipated results of the elections but it seems there may be a move to the right this time. Although this should not pose much of a risk to agricultural support, it may mean a more conservative approach to a number of upcoming free trade agreement negotiations between the EU and other regions which could have an impact on European farmers.
MF: The European Parliament is made up of a number of different Committees, which is the most relevant for CEJA?
MB: This is the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI). COMAGRI’s current members have had a significant impact on the shape of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and, therefore, can influence EU policy and decision-making which have a direct and important impact on European farmers. This is particularly the case since the structural changes to the EU decision-making processes made in 2009 which strengthened the Parliament’s powers, notably in agriculture.
While European agriculture continues to invest in large, capital intensive, fully specialised industrial farms, many young farmers cannot and do not want to build their future on this model. Currently more than 55% of European farmers are over the age of 55 and want to retire within the next ten years. Yet, only 7% of the conventional and 10% of the organic farmers in Europe are under the age of 35.*
There is a growing crisis in farming, as a generation of farmers grows older, with no one to take over from them when they retire. Many farming families find that their children don’t want to follow in their footsteps, so when ageing farmers stop farming, farms often cease to be used for agriculture. But as farms and farmers disappear, our food security is increasingly threatened. Fewer people have the critical skills to produce food, farmland goes out of production and countries become over-dependent on imports. The statistics above illustrate a pressing need, both to draw young people back into farming and to provide them with access to land they can farm.
Are you concerned about where the farmers of the future are going to come from? Do you feel the industry needs to do more to attract young students? Are your own children aiming for a life in the city, rather than one in the country?
If so, come to the Inspire Pavilion at Cereals 2014 and support the event’s aim to put careers in agriculture firmly on the map.
The Arable Event, Cereals 2014 takes place on 11-12 June in Cambridgeshire, UK. This year, the Inspire Pavilion is sponsored by Massey Ferguson as well as De Lacy Executive and McDonald’s. Its aim is to provide an opportunity to showcase the vast number of great career opportunities available across the industry.
Massey Ferguson’s very own Campbell Scott, Director, Sales Engineering and MF Brand Development, will be there to speak frankly and passionately about the future of farming and the support that Massey Ferguson hopes to provide for the next generation.
Not only that, Massey Ferguson will also be talking about future careers within the industry. Ben Agar, Manager, Marketing Services UK & EIRE, will be there to offer guidance and to talk about the opportunities in global careers within the agricultural sector.
There will be a full programme of seminars and workshops and some practical sessions where help will be offered with preparing CVs, preparing for a job interview, and using social media to find that all- elusive job.
Over lunchtime there will be a panel of young farmers who will tell stories to inspire new entrants, and there’s a #studentfarmer session too. This area – 4th Avenue – has a good selection of agricultural colleges promoting the courses they have on offer, and details of available apprenticeship schemes, so make sure you find your way to this part of the event.
Another first for Cereals is the new CPD trail, a great opportunity for visitors to gain up to 12 BASIS or 8 NRoSO points in a single day’s visit.
Find out more about Cereals 2014 on their website www.cerealsevent.co.uk.
*Information sourced from The Sustainable Food Trust
Massey Ferguson speaks to Matteo Bartolini, President of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), about the links between nutrition, eating habits and the food chain.
MF: Is EU food legislation to blame for higher food prices?
MB: All of us, as European consumers want high-quality and safe food. The EU plays a vital role in that. The European Commission oversees the necessary level of law harmonization thereby avoiding distortion of competition among Member States. A set of common rules for all 28 Member States is less burdensome and expensive than 28 entirely different sets of rules and regulations.
MF: Would you agree that consumers consider the cost of food – as opposed to its quality and dietary issues – as the determining factor when shopping for food? What can we do to change people’s eating habits?
MB: Cheaper food does not always translate into unhealthy food, and we also need to keep in mind that eating habits often depend on different cultures across the Union. EU citizens must be aware of the fact that meeting the most rigorous requirements – like EU farmers do – can, indeed, contribute to higher prices since the production cost for European farmers increases in direct proportion. Europeans are demanding good quality food – in other words, they want to know what they eat and how their food was produced.
MF: What is your opinion as regards the claim that small farms are less sustainable than their bigger counterparts?
MB: Although this can sometimes be the case, it does not mean that it is the rule. Small farms can be modern and sustainable too. The EU supports small farms by providing funds for modernization and investments in order to ensure that they not polluters and that they are also economically viable. Our view on the issue is that irrespective of their size, both big and small farms should aim to produce sustainably. The reality nowadays is that increasingly scarce natural resources do not leave farmers with much of a choice. European agriculture does not consist of only small farms or only big farms. It is essential to have a mix of the two as this is part of the culture of European farming.
MF: Do you believe that European farmers’ bargaining power has decreased over the years? What do you think are the reasons behind this and what can they do to gain more control?
MB: European farmers exercise rather little control over the final cost of their products. Past practices have fallen short of providing producers with decent prices at farm gate level, with farmers often getting a fraction of what the consumer pays. However, young farmers in particular are attempting to shorten this chain and find innovative solutions to the lack of bargaining power. Young farmers employ methods such as direct selling in order to improve the functioning of the food chain, while, at the same time, bringing consumers closer to producers and giving them more understanding of where and how their food was produced.
More than 7,250 farmers, contractors and guests from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland travelled to the Discover AGCO show at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Birmingham, on 26th and 27th February to view the extensive range of equipment from Massey Ferguson.
The largest individual manufacturer event ever held in the UK, Discover AGCO showcased $18 million worth of equipment, bringing together a complete line-up of machinery from AGCO’s leading brands including the world famous Massey Ferguson brand, along with support services provided by AGCO Parts and AGCO Finance.
Held in 15,000m² space in two halls at the NEC, Discover AGCO treated guests to a machinery show experience more akin to that found at large European exhibitions. Indeed, the event provided the opportunity for customers to see the entire Massey Ferguson lineup, from Power Generators and lawn equipment, right up to our 400 horsepower MF 8700 series and our top of the range harvesting collection. Visitors were welcomed onto the stand to talk to senior staff, Area Sales Managers and Sales Support staff. Colleagues from the Beauvais factory in France also joined us to promote the forthcoming Vision of the Future event and give support to our UK team.
The event employed more than $1 million worth of audiovisual equipment to put on a wide range of presentations, including a video tracing the company’s development and achievements from its foundation to the present day. There were also presentations by Campbell Scott, Director of Brand Development for Massey Ferguson, as well as a commentary in the centrally-positioned ‘Ultimate Dealership’. A full seminar programme, addressing farm management, agronomy and livestock issues, was fully booked by visitors before the event.
David Sleath, Director Sales UK and Ireland told us, “The indoor facilities at the NEC provided the opportunity to show our massive range of equipment to our customers in a professional space, in a business-like manner and without any distractions. As well as being able to look closely at specific machines, customers could also talk to senior executives, staff and specialists in comfort, in great detail about their specific needs and, in many cases, with their dealers at the same event,” adds Mr Sleath.
One customer, Chris Gardner, from Mill Farm Ashorne, in Warwickshire, who runs a specialist grassland and agricultural contracting business, praised the show for the choice of venue and its professional approach. “The NEC is an excellent venue – warm and dry! We found the show was well laid out and I really appreciated the way we were able to take a long, detailed look, at the equipment, without feeling we were being hassled by salesmen, there was no ‘hard sell’. But as soon as we did want extra information somebody was always available to provide what we wanted.”
Sam Mercer, Sales Director of the Reekie Group, travelled to Birmingham with two coach loads of customers from its depots at Perth, Stirling and Cupar. “It was a long way to come from Central Scotland, more than six hours travelling, but it was well worth it. It was good for our customers to see not only what Massey Ferguson has to offer but the other services and products available.”
“Our customers said the show put over a very professional image. The feedback on the way home was all positive – they found it interesting and informative and, despite the long journey, well worth the visit,” Sam told us.
AGCO has released several key updates to its industry-leading farm fleet management tool, AgCommand as available for use with Massey Ferguson machines.
The updates will streamline wireless data capabilities for customers and improve dealers’ customer service opportunities, resulting in customer and dealer time savings, and greater visibility into farm operations.
A key component of AGCO’s new global technology strategy, FuseTM Technologies, AgCommand is AGCO’s global telematics and asset management tool. It offers complete fleet management with machine performance reports, wireless communication, theft recovery and a web-based application for easy access to data, along with iPad® and iPhone® mobile apps. AgCommand helps connect mixed fleets for any size of operation.
Key updates include:
- Machine and Account Management functionality improvements that allow customers to ‘hide’ parked machines, and allow large operators to make their operation visible to multiple dealers. Dealers can now easily reflect transferred ownership of machines sold aftermarket.
- New mobile app features – including more detailed historical reports, improved map view and navigation, weather radar and improved dealer access to AgCommand’s at-a-glance dashboard which will provide dealers with the ability to receive turn-by-turn directions to a customer’s machine.
- Report enhancements and additions – including a new report to see machine hours by date and improved search capabilities within reports
For more information about AgCommand and Fuse Technologies, AGCO’s connected precision farming strategy, visit http://agcotechnologies.com.