Council: give farmers more freedom when it comes to sustainability

Council: give farmers more freedom when it comes to sustainability

There must be a new government policy for farmers who want to make their farms greener in the coming years. For example, there must be more requirements applied to individual companies in the field of nature and the environment, which governments must then strictly enforce. At the same time, politicians must give farmers more freedom to determine how they want to meet those requirements. That is what the Council for the Living Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) advised on Thursday to outgoing minister Carola Schouten (Agriculture, ChristenUnie).

According to the Rli, an independent advisory body to the government and parliament, the cabinet pays too much attention to farmers who will voluntarily or not stop their business. Behind the scenes, the forming parties are talking, for example, about an investment fund containing tens of billions of euros. This money is intended, among other things, to relocate or buy out farmers who emit too much nitrogen in vulnerable nature areas. In this way, emissions must be reduced to make room for new construction projects.

The agricultural sector is responsible for a large part of nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. A new cabinet to be formed will most likely come up with measures to reduce this share. Recently, a poll by I&O Research among just under a thousand farmers showed that just under 40 percent are willing to negotiate with the government about a reduction in livestock for a buy-out scheme. Some 61 percent of the respondents, mostly younger entrepreneurs, say they want to continue with their business in any case.

No clear guidelines

The farmers, the Rli found, believe that government policy should focus more on the group that wants to continue their business, but is uncertain about how. The researchers have recently spoken with arable farmers, pig farmers, fruit growers and dairy farmers from different backgrounds, among others.

According to the entrepreneurs, there is a lack of clear guidelines for investing in time to meet future sustainability requirements. In their view, the current policy is too inconsistent. In addition, the permit system has been set up in such a way that farmers lack the freedom to determine for themselves what they must do in order to comply with the environmental rules and regulations with their company.

Also read this piece: For more money, the farmer would like to become ‘greener’

In September, it was announced that the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance had been making an inventory for months of what is needed to make the agricultural sector so sustainable that nitrogen emissions are reduced. Various scenarios have been calculated for this. For example, the purchase of the production rights of nitrogen-emitting farmers was examined. Another, more drastic option is for the government itself to buy the land from entrepreneurs and then make it more environmentally friendly.

The latter can lead to resentment among farmers who want to continue independently. They believe that the government outlines their insufficient prospects for greening and innovating themselves. The Rli therefore advises the national, provincial and local government to set company-specific sustainability standards, but to offer farmers themselves the freedom to determine how they can meet them.

Eco regulation

The Ministry of Agriculture is currently working on an alternative to the hectare payment system, whereby farmers can receive subsidies for the hectares of agricultural land. In the future, this should be replaced by a so-called eco-scheme. This is a reward system that should encourage farmers to make their business more sustainable. The Council proposes a points system based on farmers’ sustainable performance. A farmer can then earn points in various areas – such as climate, soil, water and landscape. The total number determines the sustainability level and amount that the government pays out.

The advisory body also makes recommendations to the cabinet to make it more financially attractive for farmers to do greener business. For example, by obliging the retail sector to stock a fixed part of their range with sustainable products.

slaughterhouses

The Rli also proposes agreements between slaughterhouses and sustainable livestock farmers. In addition, the cabinet may decide to lower the tax on sustainable food.

The Ministry of Agriculture says in a response that many of the criticisms are recognizable. A spokesperson for Minister Schouten says that the department is also concentrating on farmers who want to continue with their business. According to Schouten, there are already various subsidy schemes for farmers who want to make their business greener.

A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of December 2, 2021

Council: give farmers more freedom when it comes to sustainability
Source link Council: give farmers more freedom when it comes to sustainability

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