The Dutch mineral accounting system and the European nitrate directive : implications for N and P management and farm performance

C.J.M. Ondersteijn, A.C.G. Beldman, C.H.G. Daatselaar, G.W.J. Giesen, R.B.M. Huirne

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98 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural nutrients can be a significant source of groundwater pollution. This paper studies the possible effects on farm management of a newly introduced policy instrument to control nitrogen and phosphorus pollution of groundwater bodies in The Netherlands. Ecological, technical, political, as well as financial issues, associated with the agricultural nutrient pollution problem, are considered. In response to the concern of the European Community (EC) for pollution of groundwater, The Netherlands implemented the Mineral Accounting System (MINAS), which focusses on nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus flows) on individual farms, and taxes farms whose nutrient surplus exceeds a defined limit. To investigate the implications of MINAS for individual farm performance, financial and nutrient bookkeeping data of 194 farms, distributed over five farm types, were collected from 1997 through 1999. This paper shows that nutrient management performance of farmers varied largely between and within farm types, not only in absolute figures but also in terms of nutrient efficiency. The study also indicated that levies or taxes for excess nutrient surpluses could be high, ranging from 179 ha-1 for arable farmers to 404 ha-1 for mixed dairy and intensive livestock producers. These levies would reduce gross margin (GM) by 8 n average and can threaten continuity on an individual farm level. Therefore, current performance has to change considerably for farmers to be able to make the final surplus standards in 2003. Furthermore, as a consequence of objections of the EC to the Dutch policy, application standards for manure were introduced. This study showed that this does not prove to guarantee safe nutrient management as well as MINAS does, but will impact financial performance more, due to higher manure disposal costs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-296
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • dairy farming
  • livestock farming
  • minerals
  • accounting
  • phosphates
  • nitrates
  • groundwater pollution
  • environmental protection
  • farm results
  • eu regulations
  • netherlands


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