The 2009 PDPO annual report gives an overview of the first three years of the implementation of the new Flemish Rural Development Programme (PDPO II, 2007-2013). The emphasis on the report is largely on the monitoring data for the various measures. Attention also focused on evaluation activities and on activities in terms of execution conditions. This summary only focuses on the monitoring information.
In 2009 a total of 101.7 million euros of public funds was spent on the different measures and on technical assistance. This amounts to 298.6 million euros for the first three years of PDPO II. This accounts for 39.6% of planned expenditure for the entire program period. Public spending in 2009 was divided as follows among the different axes: Axis 1: 60.4%; Axis 2: 27.6%; Axis 3: 10.5%; Axis 4: 1.5%. In budgetary terms the following measures were most important in 2009: 1) investments in agriculture (Flemish Agricultural Investment Fund/VLIF) (46.0%); 2) water management agreement (13.4%); 3) establishment of young farmers (VLIF) (7.6%); 4) agricultural training with courses, work placements, short training courses (4.2%); 5) diversification aid (VLIF) (3.9%).
The number of participants in short training or information sessions was the highest for agricultural techniques (53.4%) and for management/marketing (33.1%). In third place is the number of participants in short training sessions on landscape conservation and improvement / environmental protection (6.9%). A total of 169,311 (non-unique) participants attended a short training session.
In 2009 17,370 participants took part in sustainable agriculture awareness projects (demonstration projects). The highest number of participants (77.8%) participated in demonstration projects in the frame of landscape conservation and improvement / environmental protection, followed by new technological processes and innovative approaches (11.1%) and product quality (11.1%).
A total of 7.7 million euros was paid in 2009 for the “establishment of young farmers". In 2009 192 dossiers were approved. 22.1% of these dossiers related to early retirement, meaning that the previous manager was between 55 and 64 years. 17.4% of these dossiers were filed by a woman.
In 2009 1,402 advisory opinions (BAS) on farms were requested and received preliminary approval. During the period between 2007 and 2009 the BAS applications of 2,473 unique farmers was provisionally approved. In 2009 3,070 farmers received subsidies for the environment module, while 1,249 farmers received a grant for management advice. Both of these measures date from the previous programming period. The five-year contract pertaining to these measures will be continued until 2011.
In 2009 46.1 million euros were paid in the frame of the farm modernisation measure. A total of 2,162 dossiers submitted under PDPO II regulations was approved. 36% of these dossiers related to investments for mixed companies, 21% for horticulture companies and 19% for dairy farms. 17% of these dossiers were filed by a legal entity. This is an increase of 4% compared with last year. Six percent of the dossiers submitted by a natural person were filed by a woman and 44% of the persons submitting a dossier were younger than 40 years. In addition to potential other investments, 8.5% of the investment dossiers concern an investment in a new technique or product at sectoral level (e.g., a CHP installation). Only 0.04% and 2.5% of aid was intended for companies with more than 50% of their plots located in LFA areas (Vulnerable Nature Area with zero fertilisation) and Natura 2000 areas.
In 2009, the second call for financial aid to agri-food companies was launched. Innovative projects as well as investments in the field of alternative energy, energy conservation and the environment were eligible for consideration. The dossiers of 63 agri-feed companies were approved. Based on the approved eligible investment cost the highest investments were made by the meat processing industry (43.7%), by companies specialising in meat products (21.2%) and by companies in the fruit and vegetable sectors (19.1%).
In 2009, 607 companies with zero fertilization plots located in Vulnerable Nature Areas received compensation. This accounts for a total surface area of 1,812 hectares. 827 ha of this area are located in Natura 2000 areas. Under PDPO II nature compensation was already paid to 1,711 unique farms.
In 2009 the total surface area for agri-environmental measures amounted to 67,873 ha; 12,657 five-year contracts were being implemented during this period. Expenditure in 2009 in terms of agro-environmental measures amounted to 26.7 million euros.
50.2% of this expenditure was allocated to water management agreements and 15% to sunset measure for cover crops. Together the water management agreements and cover crop measures account for 67.7% of the total surface area for agri-environmental measures. The total area of agri-environmental measures has declined by 52,803 hectares in 2008. This sharp decline is entirely attributable to the sharp decline of the crop cover area. The area of the following agri-environmental measures increased significantly (> 10%) in 2009 compared with 2008: erosion MA (+46.3%, 1,051 hectares), standard tree orchards (+25.7%, 146 ha), floriculture (+17.4%, 168 ha), water MA (+10.9%, 2,945 ha). The area of the following agri-environmental measures increased to a limited extent (< 10%) in 2009 compared with 2008: small landscape elements MA (+9.3%, 11 ha), plot boundaries MA (+9.0%, 115 ha), species protection MA (+6.3%, 46 ha), biohectare aid (+4.5%, 121 ha). In the discussion below of the various agri-environmental measures which experienced a drop in terms of area, we do not take into account the sunset measures, in view of the fact that a reduction is trivial in this frame. The area of mechanical weed control in 2009 experienced a sharp decrease compared with 2008, i.e., a decrease with 22.7%, which is equivalent to 1,353 ha. The acreage for leguminous plants in 2009 experienced a limited reduction of 8.8% compared with 2008, which is equivalent to 570 ha.
In 2009, 9,034 beneficiaries implemented one or more agri-environmental measures. This is a decrease of 3,986 beneficiaries compared to last year. One or more agri-environmental measures were implemented in an area of 64,898 ha (=unique area). 5,775 ha of the unique area of agri-environmental measures is situated in a Natura 2000 area (8.9%), 925 ha (1.4%) in a VEN (Flemish Ecological Network) area and 425 ha (0.7%) in an LFA area.
Forty-three measures were approved in the frame of the afforestation of agricultural land measure in 2009. The total agricultural land area corresponding with these dossiers is 53 hectares. In 47.6% of the area a deciduous tree species will be planted; in 52.4% of this area the plans are for mixed planting of different tree species. If the dossiers under PDPO I and PDPO II are considered together then we may conclude that 633.5 ha of land is or will be forested in Flanders. In 2009, 101 applications were approved for the measure relating to non-productive investments in forests: 38 for ecological forest function and 63 for afforestation/reforestation.
In 2009 3.9 million euros in subsidies were paid for the measure concerning investments towards the diversification of agricultural activities. In 2009, 194 investment dossiers were approved. The number of cases as well as the investment costs that is eligible for subsidies shows that investment in renewable energy are by far the most important form of diversification. Nineteen percent of the approved dossiers had been filed by a legal entity.
The provincial management committees in 2009 approved 37 new projects for area-targeted operations in the frame of axis 3. This brings the total number of approved projects for 2007-2009 to 159. The distribution between the number of approved projects across the different measures is balanced. The measure for which most projects were approved for the period 2007-2009 is intermediate services (36), followed by tourism (35).
The first payments for projects approved by Local Groups (Leader) in 2008 took place in 2009. The Local Groups in 2009 approved 160 LEADER projects. The total of number of approved LEADER projects for the period 2007-2009 thus amounts to 247. There is a balanced distribution of the approved LEADER projects across the various measures of axis 3. The most important measure, however, is rural heritage (25.9%), followed by tourism (24.3%). The 247 approved projects have a total of 415 financial beneficiaries, made up of 330 beneficiaries from the private sector and 185 beneficiaries from the public sector.
In 2009, the Local Groups organised 293 activities. 44.7% of the activities related to the publication of local development strategies, 35.8% of the activities to training of personnel responsible the preparation and execution of local development strategies. The remaining activities focused on studies of the area and on promotion.