Fernand Etgen, Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection at the conference of the European Council of young famers (CEJA) on 2 July 2015
On 2 July 2015, under the auspices of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Luxembourgish Association of Young Farmers and Winegrowers and the Service Jeunesse de la Centrale Paysanne de Luxembourg (Luxembourg Youth Service of Country Farmers) organised, in collaboration with the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), a conference entitled 'Empowering young farmers - a pillar of Europe 2050' to be held in Ettelbrück (north of Luxembourg). The objective of the conference was to discuss issues relating to the development of young farmers in Europe.
In his opening speech, the Luxembourg Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection, Fernand Etgen, stressed the need to 'give young people the resources' to facilitate the development of European agriculture. 'It is necessary to support this relief and to put all possible measures in place to make it easier for young people to establish themselves in the agricultural sector', he explained. According to the Minister, however, the creation of specific support mechanisms for young farmers is not sufficient. He believes that it is also necessary to 'encourage and guarantee access to high-quality training for young people' and to ensure that they receive 'the best advice' when taking over a farm or vineyard.
'If we want to build a sustainable Europe, young farmers of today will be important tomorrow' pointed out Jeff Boonen, President of the Association of Young Farmers and Winegrowers, in his opening speech. He is of the opinion that the agricultural sector is facing 'immense' challenges in terms of producing quality food at affordable prices. 'The process of liberalisation allows Europe to produce for new markets, but that results in increasingly volatile prices', he explained. In his view, protecting the environment remains the biggest challenge, in so far as it leads to 'higher production costs'.
In that regard, 'we need young farmers to address these challenges, because they have a more innovative and progressive entrepreneurial spirit', stated Jeff Boonen who laments the fact that in the EU, only 6% of farmers are under 35 years of age. That is why he believes that further discussions on supporting young farmers are necessary. For Jeff Boonen, it is vital that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP i) allocates more resources to young farmers.
Priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency in the field of agriculture
Jeff Boonen, president of the Lëtzebuerger Jongbaueren a Jongwënzer, at the conference of the European Council of young famers (CEJA) on 2 July 2015
Fernand Etgen then outlined the programme of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU in the field of agriculture, in particular with regard to rationalising legislation relating to the CAP, adopting a new regulatory framework for organic farming, monitoring the effects of the Russian embargo on certain agricultural products from the EU and the abolition of the milk quota regime. One of the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency is to close discussions on schemes for milk and fruit and vegetables in schools, which the Minister considers to be 'a valuable tool in raising the awareness of young people' of the sustainability of food resources and strengthening the image of agriculture.
The Luxembourg Presidency will also seek to secure an agreement at first reading with the European iParliament on the adoption of new rules governing plant protection and try to move forward with the legislative proposal relating to the zootechnical and genealogical conditions for trade in and imports into the Union of breeding animals. 'We are also on track to finalise proposals on veterinary medicinal products and medicated feed for animals, added the Minister.
Lastly, Fernand Etgen emphasised that the global challenge of climate change will also be 'a priority concern across the board throughout the Presidency'. For the Minister, agriculture plays an important role at local and regional level and, furthermore, he believes that it is necessary to shoulder our responsibility 'internationally in an increasingly globalised world'.
He maintains that the future development of European agriculture must be handled in a way that is sustainable, in consideration of the economic and social dimension, as well as of related health and environmental factors. 'This is the context in which the Common Agricultural Policy must contribute to the general political objectives of the EU', stated the Minister.