How EU susbisides are wasted on environmentally harmful activities
The Netherlands, a small country with a high population density, has prevailing natural conditions and relatively fertile soils in a flat landscape which favours a varied and productive agriculture. In monetary terms, the Netherlands ranks second, behind the United States, as net exporter of agricultural products. Governmental policy strongly supports the intensive agricultural sector, including the availability of inexpensive natural gas supporting greenhouse horticulture and floriculture as well as the production of cheap fertilisers. The high productivity of the agricultural sector comes at a destructive price to the environment with high levels of external inputs including mineral fertiliser, manure, pesticides and energy, which rank among the highest in the world.
Priority environmental issues for the Netherlands such as loss of biodiversity, climate change and over-exploitation of natural resources reflect pressures on the environment deriving from the Netherlands’ development choices, such as intensive agriculture and transport. These environmental issues have economic consequences for Netherlands and Europe. It will cost the EU EUR 1.1 trillion every year by 2050 for the lack of policy implementation towards halting the loss of biodiversity.
How EU funds can be invested into future benefits
The Netherlands has had several EU funded projects that have integrated management of habitats with other economic sectors, including agriculture and construction. Due to intensification and lower market prices of agricultural products in the last few decades, a large number of farmers sought diversification of income by applying for agri-environment subsidies under the European Agricultural and Rural Development Fund (EARDF). An initiative “Farming for Nature” was created to stimulate diversification in the rural area away from intensive agriculture, as means of preserving and enhancing its natural and cultural values. Currently one farmer out of seven delivers “agri-environmental services”.
In 2009, LIFE financed a project to revitalize the Noorddiunen, an area that has been intensively used for agriculture, military purposes and water extraction. The area faces desiccation of the dune slacks and eutrophication, as a result of agricultural use and atmospheric deposition. The project will transform farmland into valuable natural habitat, create and restore natural dunes by removing buildings and concrete from the former military site and invasive alien species. It will also help the economy of the area by improving the infrastructure for attracting visitors and a new system of fences and gates for people and cattle.