Below you can watch the recording of the Boerengroep 50 years Kick-Off that we had on February 15th 2021. Together with Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Tim van der Mark and Roel During, we discussed new perspectives on farmers’ protests, both the ones from 1971, when Boerengroep was founded, and the more recent protests these past years in the Netherlands.
Note: in the introduction we did a zoom-theatre, but this wasn’t recorded well, we will try to record it better another time.
Furthermore, we sent the unanswered questions from audience to the speakers and below you can find the answers they sent!
Answers audience questions:
1. Questions for Jan Douwe van der Ploeg
What about Caring Farmers and Boerenraad, don’t they present an alternative farmers’ voice (rather than the conventional, protesting farmer) in the media and towards policy makers? What is your opinion on these organisations?
I did refer to “Netwerk Grondig”. I know there are plenty of small clubs and networks. These include Caring Farmers, Boerenraad, Future Farmers, Platform ABC and many others. That does not alter (and that was my conclusion) that these are small, and unfortunately marginal clubs that do not constitute a clear point of articulation of and for criticism and a broader social debate about agriculture. I cannot cite the entire list every time.
2. Questions for Tim van der Mark
a. Could you tell us more about the way you work, a ‘short chain’set-up, I gaher from what you told us. Dou you see yourself as an ‘alternative; farmer? HOW do you keeep your pigs, etc.?
You can find all that info at: www.beemsterlantsvarken.nl .
b. Referring to your comment on tackling the weakest sector to make them change: Is it not oversimplifying matters to talk about “farmers” in the nitrogen crisis? Given that a handful of HUGE farms are responsible for the majority of emissions, why are they not the target of this discussion rather than ALL farmers?
Its true that there are some big farms but its not fair to blame. An example: There is one factory in Brabant that has a nitrogen emission that is bigger than all the farms in Brabant. What I did already say, its not that the farmers don’t want to adjust, but we all must adjust and not only the farmers.
c. Do young farmers also want to farm in a way that can reduce the environmental externalities (eg: emissions, nitrogen) at the same time? what are the barriers that farmers face in order to farm for a better future? what types of incentives do farmers want in order to address the environmental externalities?
What i already told, young farmers can reduce, can change, can produce what the market wants, but we need a good earning capacity, trust and a stable future with realistic goals.
3. Questions for Roel During
a. Do you know about Voedsel anders, people starting ‘food communities’, etc. Would you call that ‘hack the system’?
I looked up Voedsel Anders and was very impressed by the thoroughness of the initiative. The debunking of myths, in particular, comes close to system hacking. The only thing is that now it’s happening from an environment of innovation. If you were to do the same from deep inside the power structures such as the FAO, World Bank etcetera, then you really get system hacking, because then you attach the ideology from within that same power structure that needs it for its survival. You do this by using the same logic, but arriving at a different ideology.
b. Do we need a larger disaster to shake the system than Corona? And climate change?
I didn’t mean a disaster as big as Corona, but big enough to make investors realize that they are at great risk by permanently pushing conventional farming to the edge of over-investing. By compulsively making farmers over-invest, you deprive the farmer from having a say about the course. You see that if farmers manage to squeeze themselves out of this system, that it is often because they have a wife that has a good job. I cannot go into too much detail here, because it is not my profession. But I don’t think it’s that difficult to design a disaster with a number of financial whiz kids that shakes up the system.
We chose the symbolic date of 15th of February, when, 50 years ago, the first farmers’ actions against Mansholt’s policy happened in Brussels. We will look back on these protests, as well as last year’s protest actions, to discuss what effects farmers’ protests have and could have. What are the differences between then and now? What can we learn from it? Are these actions a successful way for farmers to change the policy?
Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, former RSO Chairholder, will talk about his experiences as a student in 1971, the events that lead to founding Boerengroep, and his view on the protests in recent years.
Tim van der Mark, board member of NAJK and young farmer, will talk about his experiences and view on the protests as a young farmer, and why and how NAJK participated in the farmers’ protests.
Roel During, researcher at the Biodiversity and Policy team within Environmental research in WUR, will give his perspective and explain alternative tactics of resistance.