Stimulating cooperation in agriculture and horticulture. Part 2: Opportunities in the scope of the European Rural Development Policy

Anne Vuylsteke, Eline de Regt

May 2011

Farmers and growers have been confronted with constant change in recent years, both in the food chain and in a wider societal context. These developments require changes in the primary production and have prompted a renewed interest in cooperation and the subsequent added value for farmers and growers. Since the required investments (in time, resources and labour) often exceed the scale of individual businesses, cooperation can prove to be an interesting solution. Unfortunately, apart from the benefit of added value, cooperation also comes with bottlenecks and problems. Support from the government may then be required to facilitate the start-up and further operation of a cooperation alliance.

The report: "Stimulating cooperation in agriculture and horticulture. Part 1: Opportunities and bottlenecks." focuses on the cooperation alliances and provides a summary of their possible benefits and disadvantages. This second report takes a more in-depth look at the role of the government and aims at providing an insight into the instruments that can be used for the promotion of cooperation.

The report specifically discusses the aid measures provided by European countries and regions in the scope of the European Rural Development Policy. Based on the uniform application scope of the different measures, this could also be linked to the Flemish situation. In the event of sufficient interest in and support for a certain instrument, it could be considered within the next Flemish Programming Document for Rural Development (PDPO III).

The analysis shows that Flanders already possesses a number of instruments to support cooperation initiatives, but that there is plenty of room for expansion.

The analysis also shows that whereas other countries/regions make certain measures available for collaboration alliances (next to individual actors), Flanders does not. For instance: the usefulness of measure 123 (on increasing the added value) would merit further examination in a Flemish context. Primary producers could then receive support in creating more added value for their products. Measures within axis 2 are often not made accessible to collaboration formations in Flanders either.

A second finding involves the fact that certain measures that are interesting in the scope of collaboration, are not activated in Flanders. An example is measure 124, which promotes cooperation in the realisation of innovations and which brings together farmers and other chain actors in the development of new products, procedures and technology. In view of the fact that Flanders currently does not have a huge availability of similar instruments, it would be interesting to thoroughly examine the possibilities of this measure and, if possible, to activate them during the next programming period of the rural policy.

Finally we have identified a few interesting instruments outside the scope of the rural policy. Swiss initiatives, for instance, are eligible for support for implementing preliminary studies. The Swiss government opts for (limited) investment in preliminary studies so that larger funding projects need not be interrupted at a later stage. In Flanders companies could potentially avail of support from the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) for carrying out feasibility studies, but that support is not easily accessible for agricultural and horticultural businesses.

At the same time, the analysis shows that Flanders provides a number of measures directed at cooperation alliances that fall outside the European rural policy. These measures involve new start-ups as well as the support of investments made by cooperatives and farm machinery joint ventures. The Flemish starter premium for collaboration alliances is quite unique in the analysis, but it is possible that other countries also possess instruments falling outside the scope of the rural development policy.

Original version:

Anne Vuylsteke and Eline de Regt (2011)
Stimuleren van samenwerking in de land- en tuinbouw. Deel 2: Mogelijkheden in het kader van het Europese Plattelandsbeleid
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brussels.

Departement Landbouw en Visserij
Ellipsgebouw (6de verdieping) - Koning Albert II-Laan 35, bus 40 - 1030 Brussel
Tel. 02 552 78 20 - Fax 02 552 78 21