The European Commission launched its new Milk Market Observatory in April. In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), we asked President, Matteo Bartolini to outline what can be expected from this new body.
MF: What is the purpose of the Milk Market Observatory (MMO) and what is the background?
MB: It is designed to publicly provide data transparency, complemented by market analysis, short-term outlook reports and regular meetings of an economic board. This will strengthen the Commission’s capacity to monitor the dairy market and help the sector adapt to the new environment once the dairy quota system which has been in place for 30 years is abolished on 31 March 2015.
The Commissioner first initiated the idea for such an observatory at the Milk Conference in September 2013 which featured a number of CEJA young farmers. The conference brought together all stakeholders in the dairy supply chain – from dairy farmers to milk processors and retailers – to discuss the post-quota future of the sector.
MF: How important is the dairy sector in the EU?
MB: Milk is produced in every single EU Member State and, as a single product sector, it is valued at approximately 15% of all EU agricultural output. The EU is a major player in the world dairy market as the leading exporter of many dairy products, in particular, cheeses. For some Member States, it forms a crucial part of the agricultural economy. Total EU milk production was estimated at around 152 million tonnes in 2011 but this is expected to grow as global demand escalates and EU quotas are phased out. It is no secret that dairy quotas can be a contentious issue in Europe and so the only widely supported concrete suggestion of the Dairy Conference was that of the establishment of the Milk Market Observatory.
Evidence mounts that young people are returning to farming in many parts of Canada and the U.S. Can it last? Given demands on their time, slimmer margins, price of land and other obstacles, it’s little wonder young folks have for decades opted for non-farm careers.
That trend, however, has recently shown signs of reversing.
While the 2011 Canadian Census of Agriculture, the most recently released, showed a continued decades-long exodus of youth from farms, more recent anecdotal evidence points to an increase in the number of young producers. Extension agents, dealership staff, farmers and others describe seeing more men and women under the age of 40 at meetings, in their stores and on their farms.
“Lately,” says 26-year-old dairyman Gavin MacDonald of the region near his family’s community of Greenhill, Nova Scotia, “there has been an influx in young people that are really gung-ho to start farming or to continue farming, and that’s a really nice thing to see. I think [they] are interested in farming now because the technology is advancing in everything from milking cows to tractors they use, so it’s a lot different work than just manual labor. Even feed salesmen to tractor salesmen, they’re even getting younger too because there’s now a younger group of farmers.”
There’s now tangible evidence of the same trend in the U.S., albeit, as in Canada, the growth is mostly in the smaller farm sector. The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture—the 2012 edition, released in February—showed a 1.1% increase since 2007 in the number of producers younger than 35. A modest rise, but made all the more substantial when you consider that in 1982 young farmers less than 35 years old comprised 15.9% of the total. The most recent census shows the percentage of producers at just 5.7.
Perhaps these new census numbers and other evidence signal the exodus of young people from farming is abating. For more on the trend and Gavin MacDonalds’ dairy operation, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/crops/budding-trend-young-people-on-the-farm/.
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
AGCO has proudly partnered with the Zambia 4-H project to help prepare Africa’s children to meet urgent global needs, including hunger, sustainable livelihoods and food security. By 2015, 4-H will equip 250,000 young people in Sub-Saharan Africa with the knowledge and skills needed for improved, sustainable livelihoods. Click here to learn more about the #AG4Good initiative on our Facebook page.
Read the rest of this entry »