State aid: Commission approves an amended Dutch scheme to support mink-fur animal farmers in context of coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved an amended Dutch scheme to support mink-fur animal farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The amended scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework and under the 2014 EU Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas. The budget of the scheme is 31 million. Under the scheme, the public support will take the form of direct grants to fur animal farmers who, due to the coronavirus outbreak, face financial difficulties to wind up their activities, demolish the fur farms and invest in the conversion of their undertakings to other primary agricultural production. Due to the health measures imposed by the government on fur farms, the Dutch fur farming sector has been greatly affected. Minks of many fur farms were infected with SARS-CoV-2 and eventually the Dutch government ordered the early termination of fur farming operations, as well as an advanced ban on fur farming, to prevent a further spread and mutations of the virus. The existing scheme, adopted by the Commission in 2016, concerned the demolition of fur farms on the one hand and investments for the conversion of these farms on the other. The aim of the amended scheme is thus to help the beneficiaries address their liquidity needs to continue their economic activities during and after the outbreak. The Commission found that the Dutch scheme with regard to the demolition of the unused farm assets is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid does not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) the scheme will run until 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the demolition measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. The Commission also concluded that the amended investment measure is in line with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU and fulfils the requirements set out in the 2014 EU Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas. In particular, it found that the aid is proportionate and that the measure contributes to a more effective achievement of the conversion to activities in other primary agricultural production sectors. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.62816 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.