Frustration is mounting among farmers about the transition to the rural area of ​​Groningen. ‘There is no attention for farmers’ efforts’

Frustration among Groningen agriculture is increasing about the transition of the rural area. In Westerwolde, farmers walked away from the consultation table.

The size is full for the time being, Henk Wortelboer said on Wednesday in a committee meeting of the Groningen States on behalf of the Trekkergroep Westerwolde. This is one of the parties in the consultation about what needs to be done in the southeast of the province to achieve the nitrogen and nature targets in The Hague. LTO Noord is also no longer participating in the discussion.

‘Citizens at the consultation table pay no attention to the efforts of farmers’

The Westerwold farmers are saddened by the fact that all their efforts in recent decades in the field of the environment and nature have not carried any weight. The National Rural Area Program is threatened with a new attack on their building land and livestock.

Perhaps the most important annoyance, according to Wortelboer, is that agriculture has to compete with environmental organizations, nature managers and private residents who sit at the consultation table that must develop a concrete area plan for nature restoration, reduction of nitrogen emissions and improvement of water quality.

In the past thirty years, 2,500 hectares of farmland in Westerwolde has already been converted into new nature, more than doubling what was there, says Wortelboer. Neither the province nor the discussion partners at the area table pay attention to this, he stated in an occasionally emotional speech before the States Commission.

‘We were forerunners in Westerwolde, but that no longer counts’

“We were forerunners, but that no longer counts.” On the contrary: “During the sessions we had, we received more and more people at the table with whom we could not continue constructively. They have a completely different vision, and we will not achieve anything with that. In this setting we can go on for ages without making any progress.”

It is not only in Westerwolde that farmers are struggling with the transition of the rural area imposed by The Hague. In all seven sub-areas into which the province has divided the countryside, irritation is growing at the consultation tables. A total of ten farmer speakers told the committee this on Wednesday, often in even more emotional terms than Wortelboer.

The central and regional governments are over-extending the farmer, was the gist of the criticism. “So much is thrown on our plate, it gets worse every day,” sighs the young dairy farmer Menno Komrij. He sees his ambition to take over the parental company disappearing from view.

‘My dream of becoming a farmer is about to collapse’

“The NLPG hangs like a noose over the sector,” says Komrij. “My dream of becoming a farmer is about to collapse due to rules and restrictions.” The social pressure to produce sustainably and organically is also under pressure, warns organic dairy farmer Anita Jongman from Leens.

The market for organic products remains so small that less is paid for them than for ‘conventional’ alternatives. “We cannot tolerate this as an entrepreneur,” says Jongman. She also spoke on behalf of a colleague from Fransum who had also wanted to speak to the States, but is at home with a severe burnout because of all the concerns.

BBB representative is given the choice: ‘Not nice, but I understand it’

Agriculture representative Henk Emmens (BBB) ​​acknowledges that there is squeaking and creaking at the consultation tables. He also had a hard time in Westerwolde during meetings with agricultural representatives. “These are quite difficult conversations. As a director, all kinds of things are thrown at you. I don’t like that, but I understand it.”

Yet Emmens remains optimistic that he will be able to have seven detailed area plans on paper before the Hague deadline in September. He talks to the ‘runaways’ in Westerwolde to get them back to the table. Stopping the dialogue at the area tables now will only have the opposite effect, says the deputy.

According to Emmens, to achieve the goals, achievable and widely supported steps must be taken quickly. Postponement only creates new obstacles in the search for new future prospects and revenue models for the 2,400 farmers in Groningen.