“We need an integrated food policy”

That’s what Daniëlle Schweitzer, Corporate Affairs advisor in The Hague, says. She argues that farmers must have perspective and that the nitrogen crisis must be seen more broadly than agriculture and animal husbandry. “Not only to offer farmers a new perspective, but also because social issues regarding nitrogen, climate, biodiversity and health are connected.”

In the blog below, Daniëlle explains how an integrated food policy provides opportunities for the Dutch food sector.

Livestock farming is not future-proof, but the agri-food sector in the Netherlands is very innovative. It gives opportunities. You can think of ‘Wageningen’s’ worldwide reputation in food technology. Or think about pioneering initiatives such as cultured meat and the new local cultivation of protein-rich crops such as horse beans, soybeans and chickpeas. Why isn’t agriculture much more aligned with the innovation agenda that already exists?

Become part of a larger strategy
Not all answers will be easy. The perspective of ‘shrinkage’ is not motivating. But if you expand it, you see a sector that can seize economic opportunities in the food transition. The reduction of livestock farming does not have to be a bad thing if it is part of a larger strategy. Companies throughout the food chain can develop a future-proof and financially sound business model.

It is therefore a good idea to involve farmers in the food transition. The wheel does not have to be reinvented. For example, participate in an initiative by the Food Transition Coalition, which works on a sustainable and healthy food sector. You could also participate in a good initiative like Burger King. The hamburger restaurant in Vienna serves the plant-based Whopper as standard. If you want meat, ask for it. By making plant-based the new normal, we can accelerate the protein transition.

The right time is now
The political-administrative conditions are mature. In Brussels and The Hague, much attention is currently being paid to an integrated, innovative and strategic food policy. The Corona pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shown how fragile international trade flows are. The faltering grain exports from Ukraine have once again underlined the importance of the food supply. Excessive dependence is a risk and therefore undesirable.

Following European legislation, the Netherlands has taken measures to reduce imports of soy from countries such as Brazil (and to prevent deforestation). For this purpose, the Ministry of Agriculture has introduced the national protein strategy (NES). One of the goals is to strengthen the Dutch agricultural and food sector. Another goal is to change the ratio between animal and vegetable proteins from 60/40 to 50/50. For farmers, this means: more beans, fewer cows. What role can the Netherlands play in bringing the agricultural sector into the 21st century and at the same time making Europe (more) self-sufficient?

The role of government
Many companies in the food sector are already working hard on sustainability based on their own responsibility. But the government could encourage it even more. This can be done in two ways.
The first is with financial support. The food transition could be as successful as the energy transition. Investments in wind and solar parks are subsidized in the Netherlands through the SDE schemes (Stimulation of Sustainable Energy). This is financed with ‘sustainable energy and climate change supplement’ (ODE). The government should also set up a similar system for the food transition.

The other way the government can help is by setting standards. This instrument is also used in the energy transition. For example, the Netherlands has made the hybrid heat pump mandatory from 2026, and Brussels requires that new cars that emit CO2 cannot be sold from 2035. The industry and the market are preparing for this new reality.

Comparable initiatives in the food chain can also be considered. A first proposal: oblige manufacturers, retailers and the restaurant industry to always offer plant-based products as standard. A good starting point for the agricultural agreement.

Source: The Hague

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