The 8th EPP European Congress of Young Farmers took place today under the topic ‘The role of young farmers in food security’. The Congress was held in person, at the European Parliament, for the first time after two years of pandemic.
With more than 300 young farmers on the spot, this year’s edition was a success. The Congress served as the stage for a set of innovative and resilient projects submitted by 16 European young farmers from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
The population involved in food production is ageing and not being replaced at the same pace by the younger generation, which is a matter of great concern. The ability of young European farmers to innovate makes them the pioneers of the food system’s security.Nuno Melo, MEP
As 2022 is the European Year of Youth, there is no better time than now to showcase the brilliant minds of our young farmers who will lead the way towards a stronger, more secure and sustainable food chain in the EU, providing a model for the rest of the world to follow.
The future of food and farming is in the hands of European young farmers, who play a crucial role in developing a fully sustainable agricultural sector – one that supports environmental care, climate change action and smart solutions for providing safe and high-quality food for the European consumer. Young farmers’ innate capacity to innovate makes them the natural front-runners of the agri-food system transformation.
Revealing findings of latest European Commission’s census on the state of agriculture in the EU, Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski pointed out that, from 2010 to 2020, 3 million farms, 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land and 9 million livestock units were just lost across the EU. “We have 9 million farmers in the EU, but a third are over 65 years old. The average age of a European farmer has also increased by one and a half years, to 57. Generation renewal is essential for the security of our food system”, the commissioner highlighted.
The common agricultural policy (CAP), which has recently been under revision to be reformed, was last updated in 2013, which Luís Mira, Secretary-General of the Confederation of Portuguese Farmers, says is too long ago. “Since 2013 we’ve been though the pandemic and the war, but the CAP has not changed. This lack of adaptability is my worry, you cannot take so many years to reform the agricultural policy”, Mira pointed out.
His sentiment was echoed by Pedro Barato, President of ASAJA, who explained that production costs in Spain are now huge because of the war. Moreover, water reservoirs are at only 25% capacity due to the more and more frequent draughts. Spanish farmers need the support and guidance of the new CAP as soon as possible.
“Future generations of farmers are expected to produce quality foods in a sustainable way by minimizing environmental impact and preserving natural resources. This is not an easy task. European fertilizer producers are committed to ensure that European farmers have access to a variety of safe, high-quality, EU-made fertilizer products, professional advice and precision farming technologies. This will allow them to optimise the nutrients uptake by the plant, in this way producing more with less” said Jacob Hansen, Director General of Fertilizers Europe.
“We talk here today about resilience and sustainability, which are indeed important, but I would like to add inclusivity. Tech is often seen as something that is only accessible for big farms, but that is not true. We need to put the funding behind it to make tech accessible by everyone, thus making agriculture more inclusive”, added Olivier de Matos, Director General of CropLife Europe.
Best European Young Farmers
Three projects were awarded, for the best digital project, the most resilient project and the best project improving rural access. The proud winners were Alin Luculeasa, from Romania, Simon Kaiblinger, from Austria, and Desislava Kaburova, from Bulgaria, respectively.
Alin Luculeasa has put his passion for technology at the service of his uncle’s business. He transformed a classical farm into a conservative one. He digitalized the system in order to make precision faring with minimum impact on the environment. His efforts translated into more efficiency and the creation of job opportunities for young people in the rural area.
Simon Kainblinger has implemented an innovative cultivating technique called aquaponic in his family’s farm. Nothing gets wasted with this aquaculture and the benefits for the environment and business are huge.
Together with her family, Dessilava Kaburova is running a hi-tech greenhouse to produce vegetables. What stroke me the most is the social aspect of her business: her farm is also a place where the most vulnerable people are welcome to work.