While the farmers’ protest in the Netherlands rages on against government plans to reduce crops and livestock in order to cut nitrogen emissions, sending many of them out of business, it is important to point out that the situation for the Dutch farming sector has not been easy for quite some time now.
Marije Klever is a young dairy farmer from the Netherlands. She’s been a member of the Young Farmer Organization for five years now since she started her farm with just twenty cows. We asked her about being a young farmer today, and the main issues, concerns, and challenges. “We have great goals for different topics: biodiversity, climate, nitrogen, quality – Marije says – It is nice to be a farmer because you work with animals and nature. But I’m also concerned about the future of farming. Will we be able as farmers to take our steps? Sometimes you don’t even know how to get there. It is not always easy to see a bright future and know where you are heading. But I say to myself that I like that, and even if we don’t know how exactly, we can look for a way to reach those goals”.
The young farmer is well aware of the difficulties farmers have in making it clear to the general public that raising animals is not against nature but with nature. She plans to preserve the local ecosystem on her farm with her work. “On my land, there are different parts which are not that productive for the animals, they are just there, and I try to use them more for nature. I plant trees, for example, and different herbs so my farm has many biodiversities. It is a nice place for different species of birds and insects. We work in nature, and without biodiversity, it is not positive. Our system wouldn’t work”.
Today many people seem to have an opinion to share on livestock farming or sometimes a judgement. Still, very few are actually farmers or indeed have even seen a farm. And such opinions can influence legislators and policymakers. “I think that to make decisions on a farm, you must be well aware that everything is connected – Marije points out – As soon as I put part of my farm into less productive land, I will have fewer numbers on climate change. But you cannot do it without considering the economic and social effects. To those making decisions, I would recommend ensuring that the farmer keeps enough space in each farm and optimizes it instead of setting incompatible goals”.
As the Dutch government is very focused on climate, we asked what kind of support is needed for farmers besides support for reducing emissions? “Support in innovating – Marije answers – Different companies are coming up with innovations that help strengthen the livestock system. Those innovations should be acknowledged so that you can use them. We need money to make investments, and we also need clear goals to achieve. But instead of telling us ‘You must farm like that’, they should say, ‘This is the goal you have to achieve, and this is how you can do it”.