Farmers claimed €21m in EU subsidies for other owners’ land: FTM

Photo: N. van der Pas

Dutch farmers received €21.2 million in European subsidies they were not entitled to last year by claiming for land belonging to other owners.

Investigative website Follow the Money said the claims covered an area of at least 45,000 acres, some of it belonging to government organisations such as the forestry commission (Staatsbosbeheer).

EU regulations allow farmers to claim for land they rent or manage on behalf of others, but they must have written permission from the owner to validate their application.

The government’s audit office said that at least €21.2 million was claimed in 2023 by farmers who did not include evidence they were allowed to work on the land, according to the agriculture ministry’s annual report.

The EU reclaims subsidies from invalid applications from the member states, who are then supposed to claim the money back from the farmers. But in practice the bill is usually met by the taxpayer.

Farmers are entitled to subsidies of between €213 and €468 depending on the type of land and environmental regulations. Follow the Money said the farmers also used the ruling to increase the amount of manure they can spread on their land.

Some 76 landowners reported in the last six years that they “suspected their land had been claimed for without their permission,” FTM reported last August.

Eddy van Hijum, an MP for Nieuw Sociaal Contract, said he would be raising the issue when parliament debates the annual report on Wednesday.

“The Netherlands is happy to take other countries to task on the distribution of EU money,” he said. “But these errors in European spending happen year after year and I don’t see any plans to improve them. It gives off the wrong signal.”

The ministry said it had introduced better checks and enforcement methods last year, such as requiring farmers to show written proof that they had permission to work on land.

“We have also added more checks and better co-operation with organisations that manage land, such as municipalities and the forestry commission.”

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