Young Farmers' Conference and Workshop

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AGRYA–Agricultural and Rural Youth Association, Hungary held the Young Farmers' Conference and Workshop on the 24-25th of February 2012. Young farmers could get acquainted here with the current ambitions in agricultural policy, the support trends, the innovations of agricultural technology and to get more financial and taxation knowledge.

The first presentation was held by György Czerván, State Secretary for Agricultural Economy. He emphasized that the restoration of the countryside needs a lot of efforts, initiative attitude, innovation, appropriate preparing and tactics of course.
The Ministry of Rural Development recorded these in the Darányi Ignác Pan – György Czerván explained – because the Ministry is committed to the youth, since the future of the countryside and young farmers can't be separated from each other. The plan is the framework programme of realizing the national rural strategy, which was elaborated right after the social debate. He explained that both national and EU funds are available, so till 2013, it means 300 billion Hungarian Forints.
The National Rural Strategy 2020, elaborated by the ministry is an integrated rural development programme, which defines required actions in four spheres: agriculture, rural policy, food industry and environmentalism. The aim of the strategy is to produce valuable, healthy, safe and genetically modified organism-free food in Hungary, while preserving the natural resources, soil, drinking-water sources, the fauna, the landscape and the people in it along with their society and culture. Growing the number of countryside workplaces and increasing the employment ratio is also a highlighted target, György Czerván said.
It relies on five pillars: the environmental, social expenditures and incomes must be taken in account during the developments, the second principle is the community usage and the fair distribution, the third one is the system approach, the fourth is the synchronization of local economy and network co-operation, the fifth is the participation of local communities.
The minister of state has taken a look at the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), about which he stated: the policy of Hungary is to retain the amount of agricultural supports instead of decreasing, moreover to pay smallholders and young farmers attention. In correspondence of the latter one, he remarked: the aim of the government is to give every farmers support under the age of 40, not just for those who have at most 25 hectares of land.
Dr. Gergely Papp, the employee of the Research Institute of Agricultural Economics spoke about the CAP in details and also summarized its history. He emphasized that while in the beginning, the aim was to create a stable, free market with relatively high (compared to global market) internal prices, from the 1990s, the situation changed radically. Since then, a gradual and often careful, but continuous reform-progression has started, which brought new aims and changing emphases, because the European agriculture doesn't only focus on production at higher profits, which can be noticed on the structure of landed properties. Instead of the usual big-sized farming system of other countries, most of the farms in our continent are small, mostly family-owned. Beside their function of spreading inexpensive food, they help to preserve the rural landscape and to make such goods that make benefits for everyone – hence it justifies the fact, that common sacrifices are needed to be made. Because of this, these services which doesn't support agriculture directly – like environmentalism and rural development – gained more importance in the support system of CAP.
Among others, these are the activities which the European Agricultural Rural Development Fund (EARDF which became independent in 2007) is meant to do, Lajos Búsi detailed it.
The Deputy Secretary of State for Rural Development presented the four axes of EARDF. The first one aimed to improve the competitiveness of agriculture, food processing and forestry. 45 percents of the sum of supports – which is almost 2.4 billion Euros – goes for this purpose in the 7-years budget period of the European Union between 2007 and 2013. Beside this, the most of expenditures serve something else than the agriculture: one third of the EARDF budget – 1.7 billion Euros – is devoted to improve the status of the environment and countryside. The third axis takes 13 percents of the supports: increasing the quality of life in rural areas and to motivate diversification. 700 million Euros are available for this purpose. The LEADER programme, which supports local intentions and developing communities will receive 5 percents, that's 270 million Euros.
Our nation has used this axis the least efficiently: according to the midterm calculations, only 15 percents of the available sources were expended. This ratio was about 70 percents at the same time in 2010. Hungary performed very well in the 2nd axis: the commitments and applications exceeded the available resource.
Lajos Búsi also talked about the 2012 plans. He told that they offer a launching sponsorship for young farmers. The aim is to ensure cover for expenditures or support for developments for starting the agricultural activity. It's available for newbie agricultural technicians between the age of 18 and 40 if it's their first enterprise. The amount of the support varies between 20 and 40 thousand Euros depending on the planned size of the company at the end of the compulsory 4 years of running. For this, a 4 billion Hungarian Forints of fund is being planned, which is available from the first half-year. The ministry favours the youth by giving a support for farmers above 55 if they let the young (at most 40 years old) and trained farmers run their business.
The Ministry also tries to help information technology innovations, support forest-plantation and offer sponsorship to increase the value of agricultural goods, all by the GAZDANET programme. It attempts to boost tourist activity, diversification, establishment and development of micro-companies. The Ministry would like to care the countryside by supporting the innovation and improvement of villages and preserving rural heritage. LEADER communities would also gain two dues.
Miklós Lelkes, Head of Department at Agricultural and Rural Development Authority talked about his experiences in realization and control of the young farmer sponsorship. He told that they chose 10 percents of the subjects of observation randomly and by making a risk-analysis. They checked the professional aspects and financial plans of them, but looked at their incomes only from the fourth year.
They found some kind of fault at every third examination. According to Miklós Lelkes the overall status is positive, most of the sponsored ones took their responsibilities serious, but among the observed partners, there were quite a lot who had not even started to run the business, most of them overextended themselves, while the lack of proper communication-establishment is significant.
Dr. Miklós Weisz presented the research of the generation-shift. They asked young farmers to fill in a questionnaire. According to the results, 70 percents of the answerers said that they can ensure an average life-quality, but according to one quarter, they can reach only the subsistence level. The answers depended on the qualification too: while half of the secondary educated people said they can hardly keep living, only 18 percents of higher educated ones felt the same. However there wasn't any lack of optimism: a total of 93 percents plan to expand their farmland in the next 5 years. While 80 percents claimed it under the age of 24, everyone had this opinion between 24 and 29. Older people gradually tended to be less enthusiastic. Most of the participants would insist on agriculture anyway, while a third of them would quit this profession due to their experiences.
István Szabó, the Director of OTP Bank's Agricultural Partner Relationship Division presented the Darányi Ignác Plan and other opportunities accessible for family farmers. In correspondence with the Plan he remarked: it's a concept which targets integrated rural development policy, gives family farms priority and prefers high-quality agriculture and landscape-preservation instead of monocultural mass-production.
He expected new, logical law-environment, efficient, partner-friendly sponsorship system, and the launch of approach-forming, training programmes and actions. He also emphasized the key role of agriculture in Hungary, which makes 5 percents of the GDP, the double of the EU average, moreover the “agro-business” makes 15 to 20 percents. Our country is also outstanding in the aspect of soil-ratio, we occupied the third place in the EU.
Dr. Róbert Sebestyén, President of the National Soil Fund Organization reported about their activity himself. Although many aspects – the enhancement of incomes also – belong to the goals of the organization, he highlighted the national ambitions. They are willing to lease the amount of money which they are responsible for.
The employees of the National Tax and Customs Administration held presentation themselves about tax laws. Mária Lepsényi talked about the accounting of special supports for young farmers, the laws related to the individual entrepreneurs and the so-called “ancient farmers” [who don't have an enterprise but are allowed to make and sell certain products] considering the changes of the year 2012. Benedekné Jurányi spoke about affix-payment, while Orsolya Tóth told the news about the value added tax.

The young farmers could participate in a workshop at the day after the conference, where – after thought-provoking presentations – they had a chance to talk about the questions concerning them in a less formal way.
Kamilla Kesjár introduced CAP's implementation in Hungary during his presentation kicking off the discussion. She emphasised about subsidiary trends that the weight of national sources is less and less while there are more and more EU resources used: between 2007 and 2010, the national share fell by less than half, from 43 to 20 percent. The co-president of AGRYA presented the use of EU agricultural funds in detail: in 2010, 167 billion Forints were spent to New Hungary Rural Development Programme (using and mirroring the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development), while 247 billion Forints were paid out to the Single Area Payment Scheme financed directly by by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund. Besides these, 50 billion forints were paid for interior and exterior, interventional and other market subsidies in 2010.
The presentation introducing the second debate was about agriculture's innovational opportunities, held by István Bognár from Saint Stephen University. The presenter stressed the important role of modern machinery in agriculture, since the optimal period for farming is shrinking because of the global climate change, demand for food is soaring because of Earth's growing population, and the need for organic farming is getting bigger and bigger, and these are all motivating technological advancements. Because of the appearance of informatics tools in agriculture such as GPS-devices and controlling systems based on them, sowing machines calculating the seeds' dosing automatically, various maps, agro-management systems, it can be said that there is a real technological revolution ongoing nowadays.
In the third round of the workshop, István Fejes presented the expected effects of the 2014-2020 CAP reform to the LEADER programme. On one hand, many elements will remain unchanges: among these are some basic principles such as territoriality, network-based functioning or integration. There will still be so-called Local Action Groups (LAGs) that are ensuring the fulfillment of Local Rural Development Strategies' implementation and are also evaluating them, they publish tender opportunities, accept and evaluate support applications. But the planned CAP reform would significantly broaden LEADER programme, for example non-rural territories would also have the opportunity to create partnerships, furthermore, it would be possible to finance the implementation of Local Rural Development Plans from more structural funds.
The topic of the last discussion was set by the presentation of Árpád Kámán, who summed up the experiences of the deep-interview phase of the study initiated by AGRYA about generational change. The study's first phase was the opinion survey of farmers by questionnaires, the results of which were introduced on the day of the conference by Dr. Miklós Weisz. The aforementioned deep interviews uncovered young farmers' opinions, statuses and expectations of the future with the contribution of AGRYA's workers, volunteers. The results of this were passed on  as an interactive presentation to the young farmers present. The problem of generational change concerns us all, therefore a general agreement was characteristic to the debate of conclusions, suggestions mentioned during the discussion about it.