CAP-payments should be used to support innovation

October 31st, 2013 - The Dutch government and parliament should use CAP-payments in a targeted manner to help farmers pursue innovation and sustainability. Only then can Dutch agriculture be assured of a sound future. This is the main conclusion of an advisory report produced by the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli), entitled ‘Sustainable choices in the implementation of the common agricultural policy in the Netherlands’, which was presented today to the Minister of Agriculture, Sharon Dijksma.

Farmers currently receive CAP-payments based on their past production figures. As a result, some receive more money than others. The EU wants to revise this system so that every farmer is paid a standard amount per hectare of land, the so-called ‘flat rate’ system. Since the change is inevitable, it will be best to press ahead as quickly as possible, the Council contends. This will create greater certainty with regard to the future of Dutch agriculture, which can only benefit the sector. The Council further advises the government and parliament to focus on the opportunities which a targeted approach offers in strengthening competitiveness through sustainability and innovation. 

Any system of payments intended to promote sustainability must be effective, with no unnecessary administrative or regulatory burden. The Council therefore advises the government to develop quality or certification systems which incorporate all sustainability requirements in a clear and cohesive manner. The government should do so in consultation with the agricultural sector itself, as well as other relevant sectors and organisations. Examples of effective certification systems are to be found in other EU member states, and can provide inspiration and guidance in pursuit of the necessary ongoing progress. Certification systems offer both the government and society full transparency with regard to the performance of the sector. They can also play an important role in the next stage of reforming the European Common Agricultural Policy, when it is likely that the sustainability requirements will be made yet more stringent.

The years ahead will see an ongoing decrease in the CAP-payments made to European farmers, and to Dutch farmers in particular. Only those who are adequately competitive will be able to offset the reduction in income. That are in practice, the farmers who apply innovation to achieve cost effectiveness while addressing society’s expectations and requirements. Innovation is crucial to the national economy and the Netherlands’ export position in particular. The EU is now to allow member states to use fifteen percent of the direct payments to support innovation and sustainability, with no national co‑funding required. The Council advises the government to exploit this opportunity, and has suggested the creation of a national fund devoted to the promotion of innovation, including projects which bear a high degree of risk.

The Council is aware that a long tradition is about to be broken, but believes that doing so is inevitable if the Dutch agricultural sector is to remain competitive in the long term.

Note to editors

For more information on the advisory letter please contact Hannah Koutstaal, project manager,, +31 (0)6 11797505 or Miep Eisner, communications advisor,, +31 (0)6 15369339.