European agriculture policy greener and more effective

'The EU Agriculture Ministers have reached agreement on the new European agriculture policy and priority will be given to greening and modernisation of agriculture,' according to Dutch Minister for Agriculture Dijksma following the decision of the EU Agriculture Ministers.

A major step towards sustainable agriculture

The Netherlands believes it is important that the European Ministers should aim for flexible greening measures focused on targets, as a major step towards greener, more innovative and more sustainable agriculture. 'That is important for Europe, and certainly for the Netherlands,' said Agriculture Minister Dijksma.

Several Dutch hopes fulfilled

The agreement concluded by the 27 Ministers on 19 March 2013 for negotiations with the European Parliament also contains several elements championed by the Netherlands. For instance, farmers can choose one of the three standard greening measures (annual crop rotation, grassland conservation or the development and management of valuable landscapes), or, alternatively, they may opt for greening through sustainability certificates and/or agricultural nature management. Certified organic farms will also be eligible for the greening premium. These alternatives must of course equally deliver results in areas such as biodiversity. The agreement thus gives Dutch farmers more scope to choose greening measures that suit conditions specific to the Netherlands.

Greening measures to be carried out by nature organisations

The Ministers’ agreement also accepted the Dutch proposal allowing joint implementation of greening measures by farmers in agricultural nature associations. These associations can manage and maintain local features such as hedgerows or streams collectively. This could make agricultural nature management more effective, as better results can often be achieved by tackling a problem together.

Sustainability on the farm

The new European Rural Development Policy stimulates investment in innovation and sustainability on the farm. 'This fits in with the challenge facing many Dutch farmers to produce more sustainably. In addition to familiar initiatives like precision farming, I see new opportunities in processing manure into new products and innovative livestock production systems.'

Abolition of sugar quota

Agreement has also been reached on the abolition of the last form of production-based support: following the milk quota in 2015, the sugar quota will end in 2017. Sugar producers, processors and consumers will benefit from a probable reduction in market price.

Extra food safety rules

Thanks to Dutch efforts, producer organisations will now be able to set rules, not only for their members, but for other people working in the sector. This will allow the organisations, under very specific conditions, to introduce extra rules on matters such as animal health, plant health and food safety. It is important, for instance, if the sector is hit by a plant disease that must be controlled in the interests of the whole sector.

Final decision in June

The agreement gives the Irish Presidency the mandate to reach final agreement on the new European agricultural policy with the European Parliament and the European Commission. The final decision on the new European agriculture policy is expected to be made in June in both the Agriculture Council and the European Parliament. For the Netherlands a sum of approximately EUR 6 billion has been reserved for the whole period from 2014 to 2020. Of this approximately 5.4 billion is earmarked for direct greening payments to farmers and 0.6 billion for rural development policy.