Sustainable Agriculture Investment Fund launched

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14 July 2021

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Farmers and gardeners with plans to make their operations more sustainable can apply for the Investment Fund Sustainable Agriculture (IDL) at the National Green Fund starting today. This is a pilot project for up to 35 entrepreneurs. The total budget is 9 million euros.

This was announced today by Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten. The pilot is financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The investment fund is the core of the Omschakelprogramma Duurzame Landbouw.

Agricultural businesses that want to invest in becoming more sustainable often do not get those plans funded because of the uncertain return on investment in the short and long term. The IDL offers these entrepreneurs additional funding to shape the transition to sustainable agriculture.

Minister Schouten hopes the investment fund will help companies on their way. 'For many farmers the choice to do business in a more sustainable way depends on the financial possibilities to invest. I am pleased that we are now making a start with the investment fund as part of the Sustainable Agriculture Switchover Programme. This support helps to make farming future-proof. It is a pilot phase, so we will also use all the insights we gain for the future design of the fund.'

From the sector itself

The National Green Fund is making the fund operational and will gain experience with this new approach that responds to sustainable initiatives from within the sector itself. "We finance projects that contribute to the quality of our green living environment in the broadest sense of the word. The IDL helps us financially to support farmers and horticulturalists even more in their steps towards sustainability," says director Jean Paul Schaaij of the National Green Fund.

A maximum of 400,000 euros is available per company. Entrepreneurs need pay hardly any interest and do not have to repay in the first few years. However, there must be private co-financing. The investments must therefore also be partly financed from other sources, such as banks, crowdfunding, other funds or family.

Steering on goals

Entrepreneurs who want to apply for the IDL must invest in demonstrable improvements in the field of sustainability. This is not about specific measures, but about achieving goals. A reduction in emissions of nitrogen is paramount.

The investment fund has seven other sustainability targets:
- fewer crop protection products;-less greenhouse gases;-less nitrate leaching;-increased biodiversity;-improved soil;-circular use of livestock feed;-and improved animal health and welfare.

Agricultural entrepreneurs, when submitting their business plans to the Green Fund, must specifically state how the conversion will contribute to at least four of these goals, in addition to nitrogen reduction.

A committee of ten members led by former director Geert Jansen will assess the content of the applications in terms of sustainability. The assessment committee also consists of core members Louise Vet, Jan Willem Erisman and Martin Scholten. In addition, Natasja Oerlemans, Anne van Doorn, Pieter de Wolf, Alex Datema, Daniƫlle de Nie and Han Swinkels will form the committee with secretary Roelof Balk.

Other elements within the conversion program

In addition to the investment fund, the Sustainable Agriculture Switchover Programme also consists of a working capital scheme and two subsidy schemes, one for support in making a solid business plan ('Subsidy Scheme Business Plan for Switchover') and one for starting up a demonstration farm ('Demonstration Farm Subsidy Scheme'). The two subsidy schemes are expected to open on 1 November this year.

During a conversion period, for example to organic farming, agricultural entrepreneurs often have temporarily higher costs and/or lower returns. For this purpose, the working capital scheme will become available, which enables the financing of the required working capital during the period of conversion.

The working capital scheme is currently being further developed, both legally and in terms of its implementation, in the form of a specific guarantee under the SME Agricultural Credit Guarantee. The aim is to open up the scheme on 1 September 2021.

Source: new-harvest