WUR-scientists call for a minister of Spatial Planning

Government should manage the battle for room and nitrogen, a coalition states in a letter to the cabinet.
Zaanse Schans, photo Shutterstock

A coalition of farmers, nature organisations, scientists and governing agents call for an integrated policy for rural areas. According to the document, the new cabinet should prioritise the production of climate-proof and healthy food in a varied landscape in the battle for space and nitrogen. The group includes WUR scientists.


The signers call for a minister of Spatial Planning, Agriculture and Environment, and the appointing of a Landscape Commissioner who should coordinate how the scarce rural areas are used. The government should offer farmers, civilians and nature organisations an action perspective based on a broadly supported vision. Governance goals related to climate, the living environment, biodiversity, food and agriculture should be designed through a process of co-creation.


The coalition formulates seven recommendations. It calls for a national agreement with legally binding goals related to climate, biodiversity, nitrogen, soil health, water and landscape. These targets must be translated into indicators at regional and business levels, enabling the government to terminate a multitude of implementation measures. Thirdly, in land use, healthy soil, biodiversity, water and landscape are leading principles. These goals should be developed per region with civic participation.

Nitrogen fund

The writers call for a Soil Bank, with which farmlands can be bought, traded or written-off, allowing agricultural businesses to become more extensive. And for a Nitrogen Fund, enabling businesses and governments to invest in lowering ammonia emissions. The government should also devise a system to reward the climate and biodiversity achievements of landowners. While the government formulates goals and parameters, it is up to the provinces to implement the policy. This plan would require a 2-billion-euro annual investment, the writers estimate.


The signers include former minister Cees Veerman, former bank president Herman Wijffels and CEO of Friesland Campina Frans Keurentjes. The document was signed by WUR employees Louise Vet (ecologist), Imke de Boer (agronomist), Krijn Poppe (economist), Jeroen Candel (governance expert), and soil experts Johan Bouma and Lijbert Brussaard.


The plea has the support of the Transition Coalition Food, a group of some 200 businesses, organisations and individuals who strive for a transition in the farming and food system. The Farmers Council, a group of traditional and sustainable farmers who support future-proof farming, also supports the letter.

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