The European Commission has given the green light to two new schemes proposed in the Netherlands that would compensate livestock farmers in certain areas who opt to voluntarily close their breeding sites.

The key aim behind the new Dutch schemes, which will have a total budget of €1.47 billion, is to “reduce nitrogen deposition on nature conservation areas”.

The proposed schemes will effectively reduce livestock numbers in the Netherlands because any farmer that signs up to the new schemes must agree that their decision to stop breeding is “definitive and irreversible”.

They must also agree that they will not start a similar breeding programme anywhere else in the Netherlands or in the European Union (EU).

The European Commission assessed the proposed schemes under EU State aid rules which allows aid for the full or partial closure of “production capacity for environmental reasons”.

The new Dutch schemes will be restricted to small and medium-sized livestock farmers in the Netherlands, who agree to voluntarily stop breeding – provided that their current “nitrogen deposition load” exceed certain minimum levels.  

The new schemes –  LBV and LBV –  will compensate livestock farmers who voluntarily agree to the “definitive closure of livestock husbandry sites” in Natura 2000 areas.

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president in charge of competition policy, European Commission, said:

“The €1.47 billion Dutch schemes we approved will facilitate the voluntary closure of livestock farming sites with substantive nitrogen deposition on nature conservation areas.

“The schemes will improve the environment conditions in those areas and will promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly production in the livestock sector, without unduly distorting competition.”

Farmers who take part in the €500 million  LBV scheme will be directly compensated for 100% of the losses incurred by the closure of their dairy cattle, pig and poultry breeding sites, in particular relating to the loss of production capacity and of production rights.

To qualify for the compensation package the breeding site must have “certain minimum levels of nitrogen deposition load per year”.

Meanwhile the €975 million LBV plus scheme will only be open to “peak-load emitting breeding sites” who emit a high level of nitrogen per year, fixed as a minimum level.

The scheme will be available to farmers who breed dairy cattle, pigs and poultry and also veal calves. 

Farmers who qualify for the LBV plus scheme will also receive 100% compensation for all losses incurred as a result of closing breeding sites, in particular in relation to the loss of production rights as well as to demolition costs.

“As regards the loss of production capacity, under the LBV plus scheme, the farmers concerned may receive up to 120% as compensation,” according to details of the scheme.