Governments should set goals to encourage more circular agricultural systems which achieve higher efficiency, better environmental outcomes and less waste.
The Dutch model, which includes a ‘dashboard’ to measure the public goods businesses across the supply chain deliver, such as soil, water and air quality, would then be used to direct Government subsidies to the best performers.
Barbara Baarsma, chief executive of Rabobank Amsterdam and professor of applied economics at the University of Amsterdam, told the Women in Food and Agriculture summit: “European and other government subsidies should be geared entirely to circular agriculture via a sliding scale that rewards the best performing 10 per cent with the most subsidy.”
Prof Baarsma, who is a member of the Dutch Government’s taskforce set up to make circular agriculture more commonplace, said governments should use goal-based rather than means-based regulation.
“The government should take a pragmatic approach, drawing on the practical experience of the supply chain parties,” she said.
“Businesses in the agricultural sector will need to decide for themselves how they achieve these goals. They will then be held to account for their behaviour.”
To enable businesses to improve, Ms Baarsma said a transition fund should be set up to support system innovations by bearing 80 per cent of the risk. This would then decrease as innovations were implemented.
She said the data should be transparent and used to draw up long term model contracts. The Netherlands could play a key role in helping bring about a level playing field for circular agriculture products throughout the EU, she added.
“Farmers should take the initiative for long term contracts and suppliers and buyers should co-operate with this.
“Agreements on how to share the risk in the supply chain should be the new norm and governments should intervene if progress is not made,” said Prof Baarsma, adding consumers would be helped to make sustainable food purchases through product branding and labelling.
"The road to circular agriculture will only succeed if the farmer can make the necessary investments and earn back, they can work in an economically healthy way and earn a good income."
Delegates at the conference, held in Amsterdam and organised by Farmers Guardian’s parent company AgriBriefing, said farming organisations in the UK would be watching the Dutch model closely as the UK Government creates its own payment for public goods model while seeking more equitable supply chains, where farmers do not shoulder disproportionate risk.