The coalition agreement for the new government has finally been reached and
it looks as though unpleasant surprises for Wageningen UR are unlikely.
Despite the Netherlands now being officially in recession, prime minister
Balkenende has indicated that there will be 800 million euros extra
available for education. An ‘innovation platform’ consisting of the
ministers of agriculture, education and economic affairs and education
representatives is to be set up to accelerate the development of education,
research and innovation in the knowledge economy. As they put it in the
agreement, ‘we can only excel in knowledge if we have good, accessible
higher education and a concentration of research fields and locations, such
as biotechnology and ICT’. The DLO research institutes knew they were due
to make budget cuts, and have already made their calculations on the basis
of a reduction of five million euros.
Rural sociologists in Wageningen have developed a European MSc module on
rural development together with the universities of Pisa in Italy and
Cardiff in Wales.
The focus will be on new forms of agriculture in line with the changes in
European agricultural policy, that has shifted away from production to
other services such as nature and landscape conservation, organic farming
and rural tourism. Implementation of this kind of policy requires experts
trained in planning, sociology and economics, who also have practical
experience of European developments. The new module takes nine months, but
it is possible to take just parts of the course. The first two months in
Wageningen cover sociological aspects, followed by four months on planning
rural renewal in Cardiff and three months in Italy on economics. A number
of Italian students are due to start in Wageningen in September. Erasmus
scholarships are available for the course.
According to the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI) the Dutch
organic agriculture sector could learn much from its Danish counterpart.
LEI recently published a study of the organic sector in Denmark, that
received a substantial impetus from the government in the early days. The
result is that six percent of all agriculture there is now organic,
compared with only 1.5 percent in the Netherlands. Other factors that have
contributed to this success include the fact that there is only one clear
national logo representing organic agriculture and government communication
on consumer-related issues is clear. The report concludes that the
government, businesses and consumer organisations work well together in
Denmark and the organic sector is also well integrated into the rest of the
agricultural sector and production chains.