The farmers argue. Because they want to expand their business and do not get a permit due to the nitrogen policy. Because agricultural land has become unaffordable. Because they no longer know what to do with their manure due to the increasingly strict manure action plan. Because they don’t get enough money for their cattle and therefore don’t earn the salt on their fries. Because they are overwhelmed by all the administrative hassle. Because they are afraid that their children will no longer have a future in farming. Because the way they have been farming for decades is apparently no longer the right way.
For years, farmers were guided by the European agricultural model, drawn up after the Second World War, which focused on more, bigger and cheaper. More efficient production in increasingly larger agricultural companies to make food as cheap as possible for consumers in exchange for subsidies. A model based on the input of imported soy, fertilizer and pesticides.
Under pressure from a nature that suffers from an excess of nitrogen and nitrates and a climate that is succumbing to too much methane emissions, Europe changed hands and imposed restrictions and rules on farmers through the Green Deal. But it failed to make green farming the only revenue model and to make radical choices, including financially. Large-scale still pays off. And Europe sold its new vision poorly, leaving farmers with the feeling of losing and nothing to gain.
The Farmers’ Union, co-architect and defender of the old agricultural policy, supports the protest. An agricultural organization that has tentacles throughout the agro-industry and even beyond has built its livelihood on the old model. She had seen the climate and environmental problems coming for years, but failed to write a future story for the farmers other than that of expansion and large-scale.
The Boerenbond clings to an agriculture that is reaching its limits everywhere, while the farmers themselves increasingly feel how they are losing control over their existence. Standing up for farmers means helping to design a sustainable, future-oriented model in a changing world with different needs. For few farmers, expansion and economies of scale are a goal in themselves. Their goal is a decent income.
Greening, diversifying, downsizing can be an attractive agricultural model. There are examples of farmers who have already made the switch. It is possible and it pays off. If the vision and perspective are clear and there is fair compensation for the services provided, farmers are certainly willing to participate in a different story. High time that the Farmers’ Union contributed to this.