Impacts of Agricultural Policy on Rural Development in Belgium: case study of the Flemish Region

Koen Carels
Patricia De Clercq
Dirk Van Gijseghem

Impacts of Agricultural Policy on Rural Development in Belgium: case study of the Flemish Region

In Belgium the regions (NUTS 1) are the competent authorities for the agricultural and rural development policy. This paper will focus on the case of the Flemish Region.

Urbanisation is the key problem of the countryside in Flanders. Immigration of city dwellers and the increased interest in the countryside as a 'consumption area' entails increasing land prices and new demands and pressures on agriculture. The challenge for this densely populated countryside is developing a viable agricultural sector meeting all these new demands. The current Flemish Program 2000-2006 based on Regulation EC 1257/1999 is mainly focused on agriculture.

The measures in this Agricultural Program can be divided into 3 main categories: economic, environmental and social. Economic orientated measures are investment support (f.e. diversification, setup of young farmers) and training actions for (young) farmers. The second category consists mainly of agri-environmental payments to farmers while the third category focuses on the non-agricultural aspects of the countryside, e.g. village renewal.

The Agricultural Program's Mid Term Evaluation conducted in 2003, estimated the earliest program impacts. It showed positive impacts on revenues and an increased environmental awareness of the policy's main target group, the farmers. An in depth analysis of farm diversification in one specific area calculated farm revenues and the number of jobs created. Also estimations for the whole local rural economy were made.

The Agricultural Program also has an impact on the existing governance structures for rural development. Because of the need for a more integrated and wider approach, a new forum, the 'Intergovernmental Rural Consultation Group', was installed recently.

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