Europe's young farmers will receive extra funding to help them start out in agriculture and choose rural rather than urban lifestyles, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has announced.
The numbers of farmers has declined in Europe since the late 1970s, although the proportion of young people who choose to go into agriculture has remained stable at about 20 per cent.
But in some countries, particularly in southern Europe and also the Netherlands, this proportion is below eight per cent.
At present, farmers aged under 40 can benefit from EU funding up to a
maximum 30,000 euros as a one-off payment to cover start-up and advisor costs.
This will be increased to 55,000 euros, providing EU farm ministers agree to the rise at a meeting next month.
"We have increased this start-up aid and there will be support for business programmes. It's also about education and training, which never stops," Fischer Boel said.
"What is essential is to keep people out in the rural areas. The young farmers are the future," she said. About two billion euros in EU cash was earmarked to help young farmers set up operations during the 2000/06 period.
Most young EU farmers specialise in horticulture or in pig and poultry production. Older farmers, such as those aged 55 and over, tend to cultivate permanent or mixed crops like cereals.
Less than eight per cent of farmers in the EU are aged under 35, while almost 30 per cent are at least 65 years old.