Published on 31 March 2022
Strategic Environmental Assessment for agricultural policy
The European Union’s 2023-2027 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) focuses on further strengthening the agricultural sector’s attention for the climate, the environment and biodiversity. All EU member states apply the main principles of the 2023-2027 CAP to their own situation. In the Netherlands, the National Strategic Plan (NSP-CAP) was developed for this purpose. The Netherlands submitted its NSP-CAP to the European Commission at the end of 2021 and the EC is expected to approve it over the course of 2022.
In their national development of the CAP, member states identify the incentivising measures that match the needs of their own country and that they intend to implement. The policy formulated in the NSP-CAP determines the distribution of European funding for the agricultural sector. European funding is allocated by means of two funds, which are deployed in the Netherlands as follows:
- The guarantee fund that, among other things, finances the basic premium and the new eco scheme (financing of voluntarily implemented ecological measures);
- The rural fund that can be applied on an area-specific basis and that in part focuses on agricultural nature and landscape management (ANLm), as well as collaboration, knowledge and investments.
Every member state can decide to transfer part of the guarantee fund to the rural fund. As a result, less money would be available for general income support and more for area-specific policy.
Alternative A, the eco-scheme, mainly reinforces general biodiversity, while area-based policies as foreseen in alternative B contribute more to climate and rare nature.
The Strategic Environmental Statement
For EU approval of the National Plan, an accompanying Strategic Environmental Statement is required. Witteveen+Bos produced this statement for the Netherlands under assignment to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
The statement contained an analysis of the environmental impact of the two extremes within which policy choices for the NSP-CAP were made. Two (research) alternatives, Statements A B, were developed for this purpose. Each provided its own interpretation of the NSP-CAP. Alternative A puts the emphasis on providing relatively high income support – combined with general environmental and biodiversity improvements – by providing a large budget for the eco scheme. Alternative B imposes more severe (environmental) conditions on participation, combined with income support that focuses on rewetting livestock pastures and zones with extensive agriculture near Natura 2000 sites.
The eco scheme primarily supports strengthening general biodiversity, while the area-specific policy addressed in alternative B makes a greater contribution to climate and scarce nature. It should be noted that measures which focus on soil have a much broader environmental impact that extends to water quantity, quality and biodiversity. Areas for further development in relation to the alternatives include: sufficient consistency of the measures in respect of existing landscape structures, and professional implementation. The environmental information in the Strategic Environmental Statement was used to give substance to the NSP-CAP.