‘Province must determine where bulb growing locations are and are not’

Should the province be given a management role when it comes to bulb and lily cultivation? That was the question that was discussed in Drenthe politics today.

Some of the Drenthe political parties believe that the province should determine where bulb and lily cultivation is and is not allowed. According to these parties, this should be regulated in Spatial Planning. This is the instrument for the province with which it can influence the location of these agricultural lands.

PvdA, D66, Party for the Animals, SP, GroenLinks, ChristenUnie and the Pormes list argue that the province should take on this directing role. In this role, ‘the health of local residents must always come first’, but there must also be a ‘sustainable perspective’ for bulb and lily growers. However, the initiator of the debate, PvdA member Rudolf Bosch, did say that ‘health and safety take precedence over economic interests’.

Today, yet another debate about bulb and lily cultivation in our province took place. According to the above-mentioned parties, this was necessary because ‘a number of issues surrounding bulb cultivation remain hanging over the market’.

In recent years, King’s Commissioner Jetta Klijnsma organized discussions with growers, local residents, municipalities, nature organizations and stakeholders, because the parties had come into conflict with each other. On this basis, the commissioner came up with conclusions and proposals. But not all of these have been adopted by the Provincial Executive and several parties want to know why not.

The province is broadly in charge of what we do and where in Drenthe. And especially about the question: what are we not doing somewhere? This is laid down in the Environmental Vision. This shows where in Drenthe there are agricultural areas, where industrial areas, where we can live and which nature and soil we must protect. That’s called Spatial Planning.

D66 member Anry Kleine Deters recalled why Klijnsma started her conversations, namely the results of the report ‘Uitspraak’ (2019). In this report, the researchers conclude that bulb growers and local residents were diametrically opposed to each other and that it is the government’s turn to find solutions.

The province then had research into the legal options for regulating agriculture with a lot of poison use. The conclusion then was: yes, there are possibilities and there will be even more in the future, because there is a new Environmental Act from January 1, 2024.

After the elections last March, a new provincial government (Provincial Executive) was established. According to Henk van de Weg of the SP, the new board, even more than the board before it, is in the ‘no position’ on directing floriculture with a lot of pesticides through Spatial Planning.

According to D66, it’s all about using the ‘Precautionary Principle.’ The showpiece of the party and a rule based on the idea: when in doubt, don’t overtake. According to the proponents, this would allow the province to easily manage what is true and what is not true.

But according to Alfred Schoenmaker of Sterk Lokaal, the precautionary principle does not apply in bulb and lily cultivation, because it concerns permitted and tested crop protection products. Schoenmaker also asked how you can demonstrate that these substances are bad for health. “Are you prepared to risk millions in damages claims from growers if they go to court?” Schoenmaker asked the proponents.

PVV member Bert Vorenkamp is afraid that if you apply the precautionary principle, bulbs and lilies will not be able to be grown anywhere. In any case, VVD and BBB do not want any additional rules for agriculture on top of the rules that already exist in The Hague.

For the time being, the Provincial Executive only wants to “explore on a voluntary basis whether you can organize cultivation in a spatial sense in such a way that everyone’s interests are taken more into account”. They wrote this last October in response to the conclusions drawn by the King’s Commissioner after discussions with stakeholders at the ‘ball table.’

Today the Provincial Executive opened a very small door to the use of Spatial Planning as an instrument for agriculture with a lot of crop protection products. “An exploration into the possibility of including and anchoring the spatial aspects of bulb cultivation as part of an agricultural vision is part of the process of arriving at the new Environmental Vision,” said the Provincial Executive.

As far as Deputy Jisse Otter of Agriculture is concerned, it will all be discussed when creating the Drenthe Rural Area Program. This is the program in which solutions must be found for the future of agriculture, nature conservation and the nitrogen problem. “If the parties can reach good agreements among themselves, then that’s fine,” Otter said.

“But how do you want to record those voluntary agreements?” asked Renate Zuiker of the Party for the Animals. Otter hasn’t decided on that yet. “I don’t know if it is enough to just record it in the Environmental Vision or environmental plans, but we do have to safeguard it, yes.”

D66, PvdA, PvdD, SP, GroenLinks, ChristenUnie and the Pormes list find it strange that the Provincial Executive does not adopt all the proposals that Klijnsma made after the bubble table discussions. They think that should just be done one-on-one.

Deputy Otter does not agree with this, moreover, these are only “small parts that the Provincial Executive will not take over.” Such as making a list of harmful crop protection products that should be banned. Otter believes that this is not the province’s task and “it goes beyond our knowledge. I cannot determine the boundary between the importance of the economy and the importance of health. And work is being done on cleaner, more sustainable crop protection products, including in the trial Sustainable bulb cultivation Drenthe. But those things do take time,” Otter told the political parties.

According to Member of Parliament Gerben Brandsma of the Christian Union, there is more going on. Klijnsma himself has made proposals based on the conclusions of the ball table. “It would have been cleaner if the King’s Commissioner had stuck to reporting only the conclusions.” Brandsma received support from the PVV for that comment.

For the rest, the bulb debate proceeded along the well-known dividing lines between opposition and coalition. SP, PvdD and GroenLinks warned that more and more is becoming known about what the sum of all agricultural poisons may cause. In addition, there is criticism of the Board for the Authorization of Plant Protection Products and Biocides (Ctgb), because they do not do the sum and only assess the effects of the individual products. The Provincial Executive has requested clarification from the minister about the growing criticism of the Ctgb, and an explanation letter from The Hague is said to be on its way.

SP member Henk van de Weg once again warned about the consequences of pesticides for insects such as bees. Insects that are then eaten by birds. In short, the chain reaction that is created in this way in nature. BBB faction chairman Gert-Jan Schuinder was brief about it: “The circus has started again: the smear campaign against the bulb farmer, BBB does not participate in that.” That comment earned him a number of disapproving comments.

Ultimately, the coalition party PvdA and part of the opposition were unable to move the council further in the direction of Spatial Planning. This resulted in a sigh of despair from SP member of parliament Henk van de Weg: “We have been discussing this for four years, the council is digging in its heels, residents are talking to a blank wall, we have not yet made any progress.”