Farm input-output accounting systems (IOAs) are used most widely in the Netherlands, with the aim of combating nutrient pollution. Farmers measure nutrient inputs and outputs, allowing authorities to calculate and levy fines on surplus releases to the environment. The scheme has fallen foul of the EU's nitrates directive, however, for not including a fixed limit on fertiliser application (ENDS Daily 1 March 2000).
Unlike the Dutch example, most agricultural IOAs are developed as voluntary "self-evaluation" tools for farmers, says the Commission study. Based on a review of ten systems, the report's authors suggest that in areas without strong regulation, the use of IOAs reduced nutrient surpluses by 20-40%, halved pesticide toxicity and cut energy use by up to 20%.
In the long term, the report says the EU could introduce IOAs to help authorities monitor cross-compliance of production support payments with environmental rules under the Agenda 2000 reform of the common agricultural policy (ENDS Daily 26 March 1999). They could also be used as a basis to provide incentives for better environmental practice, or as a basis for allowing farmers using nutrients more efficiently to keep more livestock on their land.
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