News - May 19, 2016

‘A Food Programme, not a Food Minister’

Albert Sikkema

The Netherlands should have a Ministry of Food, think the PvdA, the CDA and the Christian Union parties. Professor of Public Administration and Policy agrees it’s time to broaden agricultural policy but doubts whether setting up a new ministry is the best way to go about it.

Should policymakers talk in terms of ‘food’ from now on instead of agriculture?

‘It is important that we develop a holistic policy in which there is room for all the elements of our food system, such as production, environment, climate, water, biodiversity, health, food safety, access to sufficient food and impacts on developing countries. Food is a much more powerful and appealing frame than agriculture.’

Which ministries do those elements currently come under?

‘Agriculture and nature policy and veterinary health come under Economic Affairs, trade and development aid under Foreign Affairs, human health under Public Health, Welfare and Sport, spatial planning, environmental and climate policy under Infrastructure and Environment, and poverty policy under Social Affairs and Employment.’

So do you need a new ministry of Food?

‘We haven’t had very good experiences with reorganizing ministries, which mainly leads to a lot of political commotion and internal bureaucratic blah blah. What’s more, for a holistic approach you need not just central government but also municipalities, provinces, companies and civil society organizations. I think we’d better set up a kind of Delta Programme on food.’

What do you mean by that?

‘We have a Delta Programme to assess the impact of climate change on the Netherlands and develop policy. That is a kind of administration bypass, a network organization for getting around administrative compartmentalization. One thing a Food Programme should certainly do is to aim at developing a food systems approach. Currently we often aim at solving discrete problems, after which new problems arise elsewhere or in the long term. We need smart ways of making connections between issues, such as obesity and sustainability.’