Dozens of Dutch farmers have been passing other people’s land off as their own to claim European subsidies, investigative news website Follow The Money reported at the weekend.
In 2017, the national forestry commission Staatsbosbeheer discovered that thousands of acres of its land had been “claimed” by farmers on paper but the problem is continuing, FTM said.
Since then, the Dutch authorities have discovered that 231 farms have applied for EU subsidies for farmland that is not their own. As well as forestry commission land, land owned by the infrastructure ministry, natural heritage organisation Natuurmonumenten and others has been used for wrongful claims, FTM said.
However, the problem may well be much more widespread, FTM said, because there are few checks on claims about land ownership. And the Dutch public prosecution department says that the fraud can never be properly dealt with given the way the subsidy system operates.
The farm ministry has now called on land owners not involved in farming to formally register their property with the Netherlands’ Enterprise Agency RVO. This would stop farmers claiming it as their own when they apply for subsidies via the RVO portal, broadcaster NOS reported.
The RVO IT system is not linked to the land registry office Kadaster, where all land ownership is formally registered.
Agricultural subsidies cost the EU nearly €56 billion in 2021, of which €904 million came to Dutch farmers. Farmers can claim €220 per hectare per year for land which they leave fallow, as long as they own it or have officially leased it.
EU rules state that at least 98% of subsidies must be allocated correctly, or refunded to EU coffers. In 2022, the Netherlands broke that limit.
The farm ministry told FTM this was down to “claims for subsidies for agricultural land for which there was no written permission from the owner.”
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