As this year was dedicated to the implementation of the activities foreseen in the action plan, the Van Hall Larenstein University from North-East Friesland in the Netherlands closely worked with its local stakeholders to set up a voucher scheme and the area contract. Farmers and agricultural collectives as well as public authorities are stakeholders.
The topics of the vouchers were selected with the local stakeholders and beneficiaries based on the needs of the territory. Five applied research professors of VHL were involved in the writing of the vouchers.
Vouchers were developed and made available in August 2022. In March 2023, lessons learned were discussed with the regional stakeholders and shared with the EU policy advisor of the province of Fryslan.
The Area contract is a bottom-up area-oriented approach, the farmers take the initiative and, together with other area parties, make an offer to governments to contribute to the social tasks for the rural area: the area offer. This offer may include delivery of social services and company-specific measures for a longer period of time and for adequate compensation that goes beyond reimbursement of expenses or loss of income. The provision of social services can subsequently become a substantial part of the farmer's revenue model. This approach sparked interest from neighboring areas, with West Groningen joining the initiative, as well as from the ministry of agriculture.
In 2022-2023, the agricultural collectives, together with the provinces of Fryslân and Groningen, Water Board Noorderzijlvest and the Ministry of LNV, and supported by WING and VHL carried out an extensive exploration on the area contract. This exploratory study investigated which areas will be affected by the national policy ‘transitie landelijk gebied’, what the agricultural sector can offer in the area and how supply and demand can be brought together, including compensation. The results of this exploration have been included in a guideline or action plan for the next phase. In December the contours of an area contract were defined and potential action/services the area could deliver were formulated for soil, nature, water, climate and nitrogen. By so milestone 1 was fulfilled. The action plan offers a step-by-step plan for arriving at an offer from the area, accountable binding and interesting for all parties. On 8 March 2023, the governors of the provinces of Fryslân and Groningen expressed their support for working towards area tenders on the basis of this guideline. By doing so milestone 2 was met. It is expected that by the end of this year the involved governors will sign an area contract.
On 22 November 2022 our Dutch partner organised in Dokkum a symposium which was open for all people in the region on the area contract at the IJsherberg. Over 60 people joined the event to discover the area contract and to participate in various workshops.