News - December 23, 2011

Lower House slashes a 130-million hole in top sectors

The Dutch Lower House has moved a motion to scrap the product boards. This puts 130 million euros worth of innovation projects in the top sectors at stake.

Potato field experiment
Last week, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament moved a motion to scrap the product boards. One of the tasks of these boards is to finance applied research in agriculture and horticulture. As such, they are part of the top sectors Agrofood and Horticulture now being formed.
The Product Board of Horticulture currently provides 30 million euros of private funds for the Horticulture top sector, while the other product boards have about 21 million euros of projects in the Agrofood top sector. Since the guidelines require a project to comprise an average of 40 percent private funding and 60 percent public funding from the Ministry of EL&I, a rough calculation shows that the product boards are involved in 130 million euros worth of innovation projects.
These are small and medium-sized projects, in which applied research is carried out together with horticultural, agricultural and animal farming concerns, and with their suppliers and processing companies. In addition, the research projects are also concerned with animal health, animal welfare, sustainability, crop protection, product quality and energy saving. If these projects are not carried out, farmers, gardeners and young supplier companies would hardly have any role in the innovation set-up of the top sectors, says Frank Bakema, administration officer of Wageningen UR. But it is still uncertain if things will go that far. Minister Henk Kamp, who is in charge of the product boards, has yet to give an answer as to whether he will pass the motion.
If the minister agrees with the motion, another organization would probably coordinate the research collectively for farmers and gardeners, thinks Bakema. Moreover, the compulsory presence of the product boards in the current situation could likely make way for voluntary participation from entrepreneurs. However, such an organizational change takes time and would certainly not be completed before 1 March when the top sector plans are presented.
The scrapping of the product boards also affects Wageningen UR greatly. Each year, about 25 million euros worth of research in Wageningen come through them. This is about 8 percent of the turnover of DLO.