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Students talk to Minister Carola Schouten during ‘Vision on vision week’

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  4. Students talk to Minister Carola Schouten during ‘Vision on vision week’

During the first week of December 2018, students from HAS University of Applied Science worked on finetuning for their own vision for the agrifood sector as part of their Business Development and Business Consultancy specialisation. This was the result of the vision document ‘Agriculture, nature and food: valuable and connected’ by the Dutch Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten. Following discussions at De Heus, Bayer and ABN-Amro, students spoke to the minster and a number of policy makers from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality on Thursday, 6 December.

Vision document: ‘Agriculture, nature and food: valuable and connected’

The students started their ‘Vision on vision week’ with a lecture about the vision document, which is basically about circular agriculture. What is the current situation? What challenges are we facing? Where are any imbalances? Where do we want to work towards? And how do we want to get there? After the lecture, the students studied the vision in smaller groups, each covering their own chosen sector: dairy farming; pig farming; horticulture; agriculture and mushroom cultivation. They put together a list of questions they wanted to ask during the discussions with De Heus, Bayer and ABN-Amro.

“She called us the pride of agriculture”

Following their discussions, the whole group travelled to The Hague for a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. Each group delivered a pitch, in which they indicated what they would change if they could. “The ministry’s policy makers took lots of notes during the pitch,” says Roy Poels, one of the students. “They said we had a clear perspective on the subject.” After the pitch, up to 3 policy makers joined each group of students for round-table discussions. Minister Carola Schouten joined the dairy farming group. “At the end of the afternoon, the minister addressed us briefly. She called us, ‘young farmers; the pride of agriculture‘ and said she was confident about the vision’s implementation. We really felt heard and understood.”

Well-prepared for a future in circular agriculture

“We believe it’s important to know more about the vision. Not just for the module at HAS, but also for our own careers, our personal development and our own businesses in the future,” according to the students. Roy Poels continues: “Within the Business Development and Business Consultancy module, there was a part about rules and regulations. What’s their mpact on your business, now and in the future? What kind of innovations will you implement? Now that we know much more about the vision, we have a better picture of the sector’s future for the coming 10-15 years. We can, therefore, also make better choices, enabling us to be well prepared for a future in circular agriculture”

“You have to represent the interests of consumers, nature, the environment and farmers”

For the students, the week was unique and informative. They were positively surprised that the policy makers were available to talk to them in The Hague at a business level. Roy:  “They really know their stuff. We now understand that it’s no mean feat to draw up a vision document like this. You need to represent so many different interests: consumers, nature, the environment and farmers.” Nevertheless, the students felt that the actual implementation of the vision was not yet clear. They will, therefore, be making a number of recommendations, which they will send to the ministry.