The Danish Rural Development Programme (RDP) has been formally adopted by the European Commission today 12 December 2014, outlining Denmark's priorities for using the 860 million EURO of public money that is available from 2014-2020 (629 million EUR from the EU budget plus 230m EUR of national funding). With "Green conversion and Green jobs" as its main objective, the programme focus 75% of the support on better management of natural resources and encouraging climate friendly farming practices, also with the objective of doubling the organic area. In addition to 3 000 investment projects to improve environmental performance of farms, the RDP aims to support restructuring of roughly 8% of Danish farms in the pig and cattle sectors. Other schemes aim to boost innovation, provide training opportunities and create more than 1300 jobs in rural areas.
Rural Development is the 2nd Pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy, providing Member States with an envelope of EU funding to manage nationally or regionally under multi-annual, co-funded programmes. In total, 118 programmes are foreseen in all 28 Member States. The new RD Regulation for the 2014-2020 period addresses six economic, environmental and social priorities, and programmes contain clear targets setting out what is to be achieved. Moreover, in order to coordinate actions better and maximise synergies with the other European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF), a Partnership Agreement has been agreed with each Member State highlighting its broad strategy for EU-funded structural investment.
This document provides a brief overview of how the challenges and opportunities faced by Denmark are addressed by the RDP. In the annex, a table indicates the priorities and focus areas each with their specific targets, and their allocated budget.
1. Situation and key challenges
Denmark covers an area of 43,098 km² of which 51% is rural (OECD). Of the rural area, 66% is agricultural land while forests cover 14 %. The total population is 5.6 million – of which 30% live in rural areas.
The unemployment rate in Denmark is 7.5%. The figure has doubled since 2009, but it is still amongst the lowest in the EU. A challenge, which arises from the relatively low employment rate in the agricultural sector, is the lack of innovators and entrepreneurs in rural areas. It is difficult to attract and maintain a well-educated work force in these areas due, among other things, to a lack of basic services.
Annual gross investment in the Danish agricultural sector has decreased by 50% in the last five years, while the debt levels of agricultural holdings have more than doubled.During this time the productivity and profitability has stagnated. Farmers are also facing difficulties in relation to the increasing requirements of environmental regulation that impinge on primary production, as well as the increasing level of costs. It is therefore extremely difficult to manage a sustainable farm that both meets environmental requirements and is financially viable. Over the last 10 years the number of farms has decreased by 35%, while the average farm size has almost doubled to 63 ha.
As the Danish agriculture sector accounts for 16% of GHG emissions of the country, which is above the EU average, the Danish farmers are in need of practical tools to address these and other emissions stemming from intensive crop and livestock production.
Farms manage 2.6 million hectares of cultivated land, the area has remained stable. Over 90% of this utilised agricultural area is arable land characterised by intensive and specialised production putting pressure on certain ecosystems and high nature value areas.
Although the water quality and the status of Danish water ways is generally quite good and improving, it is necessary to reduce emissions from nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticides in order to maintain and further improve the situation.
2. How the Danish RDP will address these challenges
The overarching objective of the RDP is achieving "Green conversion and green jobs" with a target of almost 1000 new green jobs. Denmark has chosen to address this mainly via ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and climate action. Denmark aims to improve biodiversity, water and soil management with environmentally friendly management practices, by land use change to more climate-friendly practices, for example by doubling the area of organic farming to 12%.
Also to foster competitiveness of the agriculture sector further, priority is given for investments contributing to environmental and climate objectives. Additionally, restructuring of the pig and cattle sectors, which have faced a low level of investment in recent years, will be supported.
Innovation, as a cross-cutting objective, is an integral part of the Danish RDP. It plays an important role in linking the highly prioritised environment and climate objectives with the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, businesses in rural areas, and balanced territorial development contributing to the creation of "green jobs".
In addition, balanced territorial development of rural economies and communities creating jobs, and improving living conditions in these areas, will be supported by Community Led Local Development (CLLD/Leader).
The Danish RDP is centred around four Rural Development Priorities with the main priority being Priority 4: Ecosystems management. Overall, it is foreseen that RDP support will lead to the creation of more than 1.300 jobs with 400 of these being in the most remote and disadvantaged areas showing negative population trends. The focus of each priority is explained briefly below.
Competitiveness of agri sector and sustainable forestry
Farm investments of the pig and cattle sectors aim to restructure 3,300 farms (8% of the total), while simultaneously targeting environment, climate and animal welfare. An important element is innovation which is facilitated via co-operation, and information and knowledge transfer between the agri-food sector, researchers and other stakeholders. Almost 100 co-operations will be established, while almost 6000 persons will be trained. Participation in the European Innovation Partnership can also be supported under this priority.
Restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems
Half of the allocated amount under this priority will be used for area based payments to cover the cost of farmers adopting environment/climate friendly land management practices. Organic farming is an important element. It is envisaged to double the area so it covers 12% of the agricultural area. Additionally, a number of highly targeted agri-environmental climate measures prioritising the most vulnerable areas, and water management are supported. Almost 3000 environment/climate friendly and resource efficient farm investments are envisaged. Non-productive investments, such as such as creation or recreation of wetlands and natural waterways on farmland, as well as investments and compensations improving the environmental and public amenity value of the Danish forests will be supported. Designated Natura 2000 and High Nature Value areas are prioritised in this regard. Also, 5500 persons will be trained in environmental and climate matters.
Resource efficiency and climate
The priority is for investments, either for energy efficiency, emission reduction and renewable energy production on farms and in rural areas. Non-productive investments and changes in land use from arable land to extensive farming areas, as well as environmental efforts in forestry will be supported. Over 700 investments will aim at reducing GHG emissions, while almost 200 jobs are created through green conversion. The area compensation for improved water management under Priority 4 will have positive secondary effects in this regard.
Social inclusion and local development
This priority is implemented entirely by the bottom-up approach through Local Development Strategies drawn up by the expected 26 Local Action Groups (LAGs). Investments in the food processing sector, in business start-ups and in basic services will only be supported within the scope of the Local Development Strategies. The focus is on growth and jobs in addition to improving living conditions in rural areas, particularly via business development, innovation and co-operation. 6% of the RDP public support has been earmarked for Community Led Local Development (Leader/CLLD). The approach will cover 51 % of the rural population creating both jobs and improving living conditions.
The five biggest RDP measures in budgetary terms are:
- €350 million allocated for Measure 4: Productive and non-productive investments
- €190 million allocated for Measure 10: Agri-Environment Climate
- €110 million allocated for Measure 11: Organic farming
- €55 million allocated for Measure 19: Leader/CLLD
- €45 million allocated for Measure 8: Forestry