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Road Trip Day 42: Austrian farmers on EU regulations and the future of agriculture

Road Trip Day 42: Austrian farmers on EU regulations and the future of agriculture
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Euronews is on a road trip to feel Europe's pulse ahead of elections later in May. Our correspondents Vincent McAviney and Leszek Kablak are in Austria.

One of the biggest issues for rural voters in the European Parliament elections is the future of the Common Agriculture Policy.

The European Commission has proposed a significant cut in farm spending to use scarce financial resources to tackle new challenges like security.

But the EU farming sector is faced with a new problem too: an ageing workforce. In 2016, only 11% of farm managers in the EU were under 40.

The commission has made it a priority to boost this number, but questions remain on how to achieve this.

Austria actually has the highest proportion of these young farmers with 22.2%.

29-year-old Georg Marksteiner's has farmed in northern Austria for eight generations, going back 300 years.

He remains enthusiastic about farming.

"It is the most wonderful job that I can imagine, you learn it from the elder generation," he said. "It's a lot of work; you work all the time from the early morning to the evening, but you're always at home with your family and that is the beautiful part of it.

"As for the EU farming policies, that's a complicated question to answer.

"All of the industrialised farming needs to looked at critically from a sustainability point of view; each farmer has to go their own way and needs to decide in which direction they want to go.

"We have decided for ourselves that we want to be on a smaller level and to sell directly to the consumers.

"For one year, we have been an organic farm. I like the principle that a farm is its own separate entity, with as little influence from outside as possible.

"So the actual development of the EU policies towards more ecological farming is to our advantage. But the large-scale farms are an important issue to discuss."

His wife Julia Hofbauer says EU regulations are a mixed bag: "There are both advantages and disadvantages with the EU, but I think that the advantages outweigh the negatives.

"It is difficult to have the same policies for the whole EU. In Austria, there are still many smaller farms.

"It is important not to lose sight of our main goals."

Martin Allram, who runs a neighbouring farm, disagrees with the large-scale farming that he says EU regulations encourage: "I think that the subsidies offered by the EU on the basis of the size of fields aren't right, because it encourages farming to scale up and promotes industrial-style agriculture."

The issue of encouraging younger people into farming is a vital one because long-term, it could have an impact on food security.

Watch Vincent McAviney's report from Austria in the video player above.