Board chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen thinks merging the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Policy into Economic Affairs won’t be bad news for Wageningen UR. He is concerned about nature and climate policies though.
'Whether it's all down to the Wageningen lobby is hard to say, and it doesn't really matter. It was a joint effort. Unlike something like Rotterdam harbour, which is covered by one labour agreement and one annual report, our field is rather fragmented, and that often makes its value less visible. So got together with parties such as the Dutch Agribusiness Forum and LTO Netherlands, to approach the people concerned with a joint message. I am pleased we did that.'
But nature and climate don't come off well in this agreement.
'That is one of the points I am not satisfied with. There is going to be less land bought up for the ecological main structure, but it is not yet clear whether that is going to affect our research. The plan to involve farmers more in managing nature doesn't have to work out negatively, but on that point too, we don't know yet what the consequences will be for our knowledge institutes.
Whatever the case, nature is less of a priority in this agreement. And that goes for climate research too. As an example, Wageningen UR is project leader of the big research programme 'Knowledge for Climate', involving several universities and institutes and with a budget of 100 million euros. The new government wants to 're-examine' whether that will be necessary in the future. This programme runs for another three years, and whether anything will follow it is now uncertain.'
The Ministries of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and of Economic Affairs (EZ) are to be merged. Agriculture, nature and nutrition will soon have to compete with other technological fields for grants.
'There will be more competition in certain areas, but I see advantages to this too. We are already having a lot of success with research programmes on economic issues, and we are well and truly on the map as far as that's concerned. I am especially happy that we will stay with a line ministry. Under the ministry of LNV, the golden triangle of government, research and business proved its worth. So it's very good that it will stay that way.'
Wageningen is keen on internationalization. The PVV is not.
'Indeed, the PVV's line is not the line the Wageningen UR community has in mind. We have a strong international dimension and that is of tremendous value. It will stay like that and no one can take it away from us. I presume that the CDA and the VVD, who after all form the government, wholeheartedly support that value.'