The Dutch Parliament is debating today the Dutch interpretation of the National Strategic Plan. This includes the financial support farmers can receive for their sustainability efforts, in addition to the basic income support.
With the National Strategic Plan (NSP), European member states indicate how they themselves want to meet European obligations from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The new interpretation of this will take effect from 1 January 2023. Member States also indicate how they want to meet the challenges of the Green Deal, the farm-to-fork strategy, the European Biodiversity Strategy and the Climate Agreement.
All goals must be addressed in conjunction, depending on the needs of the member state. In this the member state is not completely free, the CAP has a number of European requirements. Moreover, the European Commission has made a number of recommendations to each Member State. Unlike before, in the new CAP the member state will primarily be judged on the delivery of performance.
Schouten wants to reward farmers
Schouten wrote in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament that she wants to use the CAP to make agricultural businesses more future-proof and to reward farmers for their social performance in the face of the challenges mentioned. For example, the sector can contribute to improving the quality of air, soil and water, tackling climate change and restoring biodiversity.
Subsidies will be used more than before to reward and stimulate farmers who are making the effort to change to a new type of agriculture. With the reform of the CAP, there is more emphasis on targeted payments for investments in climate and environment and less on basic income support.
Farmers can, if they meet the conditions in the new CAP, receive European income support in three ways: the basic premium per hectare, by participating in the eco schemes and through agricultural nature and landscape management. In the Netherlands, a point system for eco-schemes and the contribution that farmers and horticulturalists make to preventing climate change are being considered. They do this by emitting fewer greenhouse gases and by improving the soil, water and landscape.
In this system, the farmer must achieve a minimum number of points for each of the goals: biodiversity, soil, water, climate and landscape. Depending on the number of points achieved, payment is made at the gold, silver or bronze level. The point system also allows for regional accents. Organic farming automatically meets the gold level.
The details of the eco regulations have not yet been determined, but they include sowing a rest crop, a protein crop, long-term grassland, strip cultivation, a lower livestock density per hectare and wooded landscape elements such as hedgerows. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has drawn up a list of possible eco-regulations and this list may be extended.
With these subsidies and the associated conditions, the government wants to try to promote the transition to future-proof farming and circular agriculture. But participation in the CAP is voluntary for the farmer and not a matter of course. If farmers find the effort required to participate too high relative to the benefits, they will not participate. And vice versa: if the required effort is too low, the government's policy goals will not be achieved. Schouten refers to this as a 'delicate balance'.
The minister therefore argues that the NSP should also be designed with security in mind, so that farmers can plan ahead and build a future-proof earnings model. This must be profitable, sustainable and fit into the agricultural landscape.
Priorities and eco-regulations.
In the NSP, the minister wants to give priority to the challenges related to climate and soil, nitrogen, water, biodiversity, landscape, animal welfare and the position of the farmer, both financially and in the chain. And preferably in an area-specific approach wherever possible.
The House of Representatives can debate the goals set and the distribution of the available CAP budget. The time given to the House for this task is limited. The draft plan will have to take shape in the coming months, because the deadline for submission to Brussels is no later than the end of this year.