The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality’s implementation plan, which Minister Schouten presented this week, is not a blueprint for circular agriculture in the Netherlands. But it does herald a new policy on manure, the market, and food waste.
Anyone at the presentation who expected the minister to set out a detailed route to circular agriculture was in for a disappointment. The implementation plan is really just a summary of existing projects and initiatives that aim at facilitating the transition to circular agriculture. The minister stressed that farmers should start experimenting and make their own decisions.
Schouten certainly wants to support the transition with new policies. A crucial component will be the manure policy. The minister wants not only to reduce the surplus of manure, but also to upgrade animal manure so it can replace artificial fertilizer, and to promote manure separation, which makes precision fertilization possible and cuts ammonia emissions in agriculture.
There is also a need for new legislation to reduce food waste in the farming sector. The minister wants to see more reuse of animal and plant waste in the food supply chain. That will require new rules. And thirdly, the minster wants supermarkets and livestock feed companies to work with the farmers on implementing circular agriculture. In other words: she wants to supermarkets to pay better prices for food produced this way. She cannot enforce that, but the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets is going to systematically assess the distribution of profit margins throughout the food supply chains. Farmer organizations can then use this information in discussions with the supermarkets’ powerful purchasing organizations. Ultimately, it is the consumer who should pay for circular agriculture, in Schouten’s view.