Landwirtschaftsdesch meeting; Credit: © SIP / Claude Piscitelli

During a recent meeting, government ministers Luc Frieden, Martine Hansen and Serge Wilmes met with representatives of Luxembourg agriculture, with the government underlining the importance it attaches to the concerns of the agricultural, horticultural and wine sector.

In this context, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Viticulture, Martine Hansen, invited representatives of agriculture to a first “Landwirtschaftsdësch” which was held on Monday 4 March at Senningen Castle in presence of the Minister of the Environment, Climate and Biodiversity, Serge Wilmes.

A permanent dialogue to solve current problems together

The aim of these meetings, which will now be scheduled twice a year, is to address the current problems facing farmers, wine growers and horticulturists and to find solutions together with the sector. For the new government, institutionalising dialogue and strengthening inter-ministerial collaboration are the key elements to ensure economically viable, sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture.

For the first edition of the “Landwirtschaftsdësch” the following topics were on the agenda:
- constructions in the green zone;
- water protection;
- ammonia emissions, and
- adaptations to the national strategic plan (PSN).

During the discussion, representatives of the agricultural sector highlighted the crucial importance of planning security, administrative simplification and the sustainability of agricultural operations.

For Ministers Hansen and Wilmes one of the objectives of this “Landwirtschaftsdësch” was not only to listen to the grievances of producers, but to find pragmatic solutions together with the sector.

Pragmatic solutions for construction in green zones

As announced in the coalition agreement, the government intends to facilitate the construction of buildings related to agricultural activities in green zones. To this end, a new definition of activities related to an agricultural operation which can be authorized in a green zone will be introduced and the related authorisation procedures will be simplified, while guaranteeing a high level of protection of nature and natural resources.

This is why Ministers Hansen and Wilmes decided to immediately launch a working group bringing together representatives from the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Biodiversity, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Viticulture, as well as representatives of the agricultural sector to identify current obstacles and to develop consistent guidelines (Leitfaden) ensuring transparent rules for constructions linked to agricultural and wine-growing activities.

In addition, an inter.ministerial pilot project will be set up with the aim of establishing the “once only” principle in the medium term. Those affected will have a single point of contact where requests for parts will be coordinated and who will guide them throughout the procedure.

Using six concrete projects of different scale, the administrations concerned will draw conclusions to implement a “one-stop shop” for all requests for the construction of agricultural infrastructure in green zones.

Water protection: Cooperative approach with the sector

During the discussions, it emerged that administrative procedures, particularly those relating to temporary authorisations, turn out to be long and complex. This is why Minister Wilmes has committed to carrying out an evaluation of the effectiveness of these procedures and undertaking a review of the 2013 legislation concerning administrative measures in all protection zones, by autumn 2024. In doing so, the main objective remains the guarantee of the distribution of drinking quality water, an objective shared by the agricultural sector. In addition to compulsory measures, it was deemed necessary to strengthen agricultural cooperation and develop voluntary measures.

Minister Wilmes announced an adaptation of the regulations on nitrates, while taking into account the report on the presence of nitrates in surface and groundwater, as well as the conclusions drawn from the experiences of winter 2023/24, during of which a large number of farmers had to request exemptions due to exceptional weather conditions, in order to overcome the usual spraying ban periods. A catalogue of proposals concerning the “nitrate” bill will be developed in consultation with the sector, with the aim of formulating suggestions that reflect the realities on the ground.

The agricultural sector will help reduce ammonia emissions

Even if additional efforts are necessary to achieve the ambitious objective of reducing ammonia emissions that Luxembourg has set itself, Minister Hansen was keen to emphasise that the sector has already made great efforts to reduce ammonia emissions in recent years. Thus, the Ministry of Agriculture will set up a Task Force between national and international experts and professionals in order to evaluate and promote new technologies and to develop operational strategies in consultation with the sector (continuing training, awareness, advice, monitoring) aimed at effectively reducing ammonia emissions at the farm level. All efforts must be measurable via a monitoring tool to be implemented.

Furthermore, the premium for a reduction in the livestock load will now take into account the forage areas of the farm abroad.

Adaptations of the agrarian law for more future prospects

To respond to the problems posed by the definition of "active farmer", the Minister of Agriculture announced that he wanted to open certain aid to a greater number of farmers, in particular winegrowers, in order to offer them more prospects of future, for example in the field of agro-environmental measures, management of phytosanitary and climatic risks (insurance) or even with regard to advice.

From the 2024/25 crop year, financial support intended to encourage the voluntary abandonment of the use of glyphosate will be reintroduced. This measure will take the form of additional aid, granted as part of the premium for the establishment of sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture.

In order to reduce the administrative burden on producers, the minimum rate of on-site controls will be reduced from 5% to 1%, in order to avoid double control on farms.

In this context Minister Hansen also announced that the development of the next strategic plan will be done in close collaboration with the sector.

At the end of the meeting, the Minister of Agriculture, Martine Hansen, declared: “The “Landwirtschaftsdësch” is not a crisis management tool. It is the institutionalization of a permanent exchange with the sector in order to address problems and prepare the agriculture of tomorrow."

Minister Wilmes - Minister of the Environment, Climate and Biodiversity - announced that his services will work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture with the aim of refining certain legal provisions perceived as too restrictive by the agricultural sector. The collaboration targeted by the Ministry of the Environment primarily concerns construction in green zones as well as measures facilitating the implementation of European legislation aimed at reducing ammonia and nitrate levels.

From the “Landwirtschaftsdësch” also emerged the desire of all stakeholders to ensure that the main vocation of an agricultural sector is the production of healthy and sustainable food.

Given that the dialogue with representatives of Luxembourg agriculture, horticulture and viticulture has been institutionalized, the next meeting will take place in the autumn.