Dec 07, 2023 at 5:06 AM Update: 3 minutes ago
Farmers are angry that they receive less subsidy for green measures than the government had offered them. Some farmers receive thousands of euros less. “It is the umpteenth time that the government has adjusted the rules afterwards.”
Farmers receive less subsidy for green initiatives than the government said. The Ministry of Agriculture reduced subsidies because too many farmers participated and there was insufficient money. Farmers are angry about the money they are missing out on, but especially about the unreliability of the government.
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“If you as a government want to act as a reliable partner, the basis is that you fulfill agreements made,” says dairy farmer Eduard Willink from Marle, Overijssel.
He has three hundred cows and 110 hectares of land. He receives a basic subsidy for this, but he can increase that amount by taking additional “green” measures. These include, for example, extra trees or hedges, herbs between the grass or leaving land fallow.
Farmers are ranked higher in a points system if they take more green measures. A farmer in the bronze category would receive 60 euros per hectare, silver yielded 100 euros per hectare and gold 200 euros per hectare.
‘Does not come across as a reliable government’
In total, the ministry had a pot of more than 150 million euros ready. But, and here’s the thing: so many farmers participated in the so-called eco scheme that there was too little money available.
That is why outgoing Agriculture Minister Adema skimmed off the amounts considerably. Bronze is now good for 44 euros per hectare, silver for 74 euros per hectare and gold yields 148 euros per hectare.
“Let me put it mildly: this does not strike me as a reliable government,” says Wullink, who falls into the gold category. Among other things, he has left a piece of land fallow and sown alfalfa, a protein-rich plant that is used to make animal feed.
“We were already doing some things and it’s great that we now receive money for them through the eco scheme. But leaving land fallow and sowing alfalfa has an impact on our business operations. That costs money.”
The lower amounts paid out cost Wullink thousands of euros. A lot of money, but for a large company the impact is not enormous. Wullink is mainly concerned with the issue of trust.
Foto: Getty Images
LTO furious: ‘Unreliable and unacceptable’
Things are different for Hugo Spruit from Zegveld (Utrecht). He has a fairly extensive dairy farm, with sixty cows and more than 40 hectares of pasture. “It costs me 15 percent of my annual income. That is a serious bite out of my income.”
Spruit falls into the silver category. It has 123 parts that fall within the eco scheme. He spent hours on the administration. “If a government wants to move in a certain direction, it is important that it is a government that encourages you and does not make you happy with a dead sparrow.”
Agriculture and Horticulture Organization LTO reacted angrily to the reduction of the amounts in the eco scheme. It calls it “unreliable, improper and unacceptable”.
Confidence in government among many farmers is already low
What matters to many farmers is that confidence in the government was already low. “We have noticed for years that there has been uncertainty,” says Michel van Dorst, dairy farmer in Etten-Leur, Brabant.
“It is the umpteenth time that the government has adjusted the rules afterwards. This is what most farmers are now facing. We cannot do business based on rules that are constantly being adjusted.”
Outgoing Minister Adema said he understood the criticism. “Farmers who are committed to sustainability must be able to count on a reliable government.” He says he is doing his best to limit the negative consequences for farmers as much as possible.
But for Spruit and many fellow farmers, those words mean little. “If you want a transition, you have to work together and be able to rely on each other. What is happening now is the opposite.”