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.
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Time has stopped, he’s in the zone and on autopilot.
Body is square to the jump, knees bent as he pops up and off at 25 mph. Flying high into the air, body twisting, contorting in different directions at once—gazing skyward, blind to the ground and seemingly out of control.
Air squeezes puffs of snow spray out as the board and rider land as one, straight and true. The jump is nailed.
Mitch Keet says he still revels in the feeling of when he has nailed a landing, or “stomped it,” even thousands of successful jumps later. “It feels so good. You just know that your hard work has paid off,” he says.
Growing up on the family poultry and grain farm amid the Canadian prairies, snow-covered mountains and big bodies of water are not exactly something in Mitch’s backyard. The nearest ski hill is more than 100 miles away, and the closest lake about the same distance. Old-fashioned rural ingenuity brought the altitude and wet stuff to the farm near Grandora, Saskatchewan.
During the winter, one of the family’s Massey Ferguson® tractors scoops and pushes snow together to build a small jump beside the poultry barns. An elongated pond of water was dug behind those same barns for summer wakeboarding. With his father, Derick, at the throttle, a homespun, carnival ride-sized winch pulls Mitch through his practice maneuvers for both wakeboarding and snowboarding. He can do more jumps in an hour than he can in a whole day on the natural slopes or water.
Mitch’s wakeboard achievements include being named Saskatchewan Rookie of the Year in 2011 and the Most Improved in 2012. He won gold at the provincials in 2013. Mitch has also achieved membership on Canada’s National Development Team.
Mitch gives much of the credit for his work ethic and the confidence to pull off his amazing areal stunts because he’s been so grounded through his experiences on the farm. The Keet family’s 600-acre farm, Double D Poultry, was started by Mitch’s grandfather David. Derick took over much of the day-to-day work of running the family farm the year Mitch was born.
Every eight weeks they ship 100,000 broiler chickens for processing to the nearby city of Saskatoon. Derick and David handle most of the work using their fleet of Massey Ferguson tractors. Mitch, however, can be counted on to handle a daily list of chores. “I go through the barns and pick up chickens, and when the birds go out, I’ll clean barns and spread straw and dump feed and spread manure, and harvest and combine for long days in the fall,” says Mitch.
While Mitch has his sights set on making the National Pro Team and competing at the world championships, he wants to do it his way. “The farm is the best; it’s open, it’s nice here all year round. And,” he continues, as if divulging the secret ingredient to his success, “the farm, it taught me skills and working, and that kind of stuff. I’ve got a good family, so I don’t want to go anywhere,” he says.
Mitch said being raised on the farm with chores and parents who take the time to teach him has made him both tougher and definitely more confident. “I’ll always remember that my dad taught me how to drive a tractor. He taught me how to drive the combine. My father’s confidence in me makes me very much more confident.”
And that attribute, says Mitch, is a big reason for his success, in boarding as it is in life.
A legacy of sustainability is evident from the talk around the table in their farm shop on a recent warm afternoon. Dave Ring, his son Brent, 38, and grandson Dylan, 8, laugh about a story in which the boy informed his grade-school teacher that he may have to come home soon to farm full time.
The reason? It seems his dad had accumulated some gray hair around his temples. Dylan took that as a sign that Brent would be retiring soon and his time to take over was at hand.
“Dylan is 8 going on 21,” laughs Dave, obviously proud of his grandson. Dave also feels confident the operation will be healthy when Dylan is indeed ready to take over.
The Rings farm more than 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, milk 100-plus dairy cows and raise thousands of tom turkeys annually on a contract basis. They have always been proponents of good conservation. They seed cover crops in the fall, do minimal subsurface tillage, incorporate dairy manure and turkey litter in the soil, and buffer waterways.
“As for conservation, you have no choice in this part of the world,” says Dave. “We have rolling ground and you have to prepare the land to slow erosion. If we weren’t good stewards, there wouldn’t be anything left for my grandson.”
Dave is used to thinking about new generations. For 28 years, he was a high school business teacher, then vocational agriculture teacher and FFA leader. Now 68, he spent his younger days rising at 3 a.m. to milk cows and work the farm before heading off to his teaching job.
He thought the teaching would only be temporary—to help out the school district fill a sudden vacancy, then later to secure the agriculture program in danger of being cut for lack of an instructor. Turns out he was a natural. “I was starting to enjoy it,” Dave admits.
He is particularly proud of nearby Southridge High School’s FFA program, which had 15 members when he started teaching it and 160 when he retired in 2009.
Earlier this year, Dave Ring was recognized with the prestigious Master Farmer award from Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine. The nominees are considered for the honor based on the quality of their operation and community service. The awards were given this past spring at a banquet sponsored by the magazine and the Purdue Ag Alumni Association.
“The Rings have done a super job of being diversified,” says Kevin Lubbehusen of Blesch Bros. Equipment Co., Dave’s farm equipment dealer.
“You don’t often see someone of his age staying out front on the technology side,” says Kevin. “That ability to stay current, along with his years of experience and his reputation for being a straight shooter, make him someone people listen to.”