The scarce presence of young farmers is commonly considered one of the main weak points in the competitiveness of European agriculture. Firstly, the lack of young farmers puts under risk the survival of the sector itself, given that the main effect of an inadequate rate of generational turnover is that the exit of farms from the sector for ageing is not balanced by the entry of new farms run by young farmers. Secondly, the competitiveness of the sector suffer from the lower investment and innovation propensity of elder farmers. For these reasons, and also to slow down the pace of depopulation in most remote rural areas, the EU has always support the entry of young entrepreneurs in the primary sector. With the more recent CAP reforms, the main effort in this matter has been that of stressing the ties between the economic incentives for young farmers and the process of farm diversification and structural change within the more general framework of rural development, according to which is the rural area vitality as a whole that requires a positive demographic trend. In spite of the evident effort of the EU to this end, the effectiveness of the policy tools on the table is still quite debatable. In particular, it is questioned whether the “new” farms that benefitted by the aid can be really considered as the “outcome” of the financial support. The paper opens with a comparative description of the ageing process in the primary sector of the main EU Member States, with the double goal of showing its evolution and offering an updated picture of the issue. The dynamic of the process is caught by the construction of the migratory balances calculated for 5 age brackets. The second step is to show the available data on the implementation of the measure in favour of young farmers included in the Rural Development Programmes for the 2000-2006 planning period with a specific focus on the Italian case. This provides some evidences and hints of reflection about the effectiveness of this policy in the light of which the novelties of Reg. 1783/03 are discussed. Furthermore, the paper provides a short summary of the main contents of the resolution approved by the European Parliament on the 5th June 2008. The document, while acknowledging the persistent problem within European agriculture, moves an open and specific criticism not only to the scarce efficacy displayed by the CAP in counteracting the problem, but also points out the role that the CAP actively played in contributing to cause this situation. Some concluding remarks are given in the last section.


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