October 6, 2022

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Big agribusinesses refuse to consult nitrogen with Remkes |  Currently

Big agribusinesses refuse to consult nitrogen with Remkes | Currently

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other cabinet members want to meet representatives of major agricultural sector concerns next Thursday, led by former minister Johan Remix. These companies funded the farmers’ protests, but now they don’t want to come and talk, according to a NU.nl tour.

It turns out that billions of companies in the agricultural sector avoid talking to the cabinet as long as no promises are made to the farmers. So far, only “Rabobank” and a representative of supermarkets have joined the conversation.

Remarkably, large companies, such as animal feed and dairy giants, are now refusing to enter into talks. They have fully supported farmers’ protests against the nitrogen policy since 2019, also financially. For example, Bart Kemp’s Agractie Working Group has received support from animal nutrition company ForFarmers.

“When I was still single, the manager of ForFarmers Netherlands called me,” Kemp said in 2019. against NU.nl. “The company supported my goals and my approach and jumped at lightning speed.”

There is a lot at stake for companies. If the government’s nitrogen schemes continue, this is expected to lead to a significant decline in livestock. If farmers keep fewer animals, this means less animal feed, less stables and less milk. This means less rotation.

The government wants companies to co-finance the transition to circular farming. To this end, a non-binding contribution is expected from banks and suppliers of, for example, animal feed and the processing industry, such as slaughterhouses.

Negotiations between Cabinet and farmers over nitrogen policy appear to be heading toward a protracted war of attrition. Last Friday, after a first conversation with Root and cabinet members led by Remix, farmers’ organizations had already expressed their displeasure. Even the commander of the Farmers Defense Force, Mark van den Auever, threatened “the hardest business of all.”

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Cabinet must adjust the time frame for the goals

Dairy giant Royal A-Ware (maker of, among other things, Albert Heijn’s Zaanlander cheese) received an invitation from Remkes at the end of July. The company will not comment on this “as long as the government does not undertake to follow a different path”, a spokesperson for NU.nl said.

According to the company, the Cabinet chose an approach based on “incorrect assumptions”. This approach will not produce the desired result and will have “unacceptable consequences” for dairy farms, and therefore food security and rural areas. According to the company, the Cabinet should be ready to adjust the “targets and timetable”.

Royal A-Ware has a turnover of 2.2 billion euros and a profit of 51 million euros. CEO Jan Anker is on Quote 500 with a net worth of 120 million euros. The company plans to expand a cheese factory in Heerenveen, where applications for permits have been submitted. This is the reason for the group’s interest in ensuring that livestock is not reduced.

Another major player is the animal feed company Royal De Heus (€3.2 billion in turnover). Prior to the first meeting between farmers and cabinet, that company had already announced that it would not accept Remkes’ invitation. Only when the Cabinet wants to discuss “policy, timeline for action and method for reducing nitrogen” is the company ready to join the conversation. A spokesperson tells NU.nl that De Heus will adhere to this position and “for the time being” will not accept the invitation.

Companies want the government to get farmers out first

The agricultural cooperative Agrifirm, to which ten thousand farmers are affiliated and which provides livestock feed, among other things, will also not attend the consultations. It is “first and foremost about the future of farmers and individual farmers,” says the spokesperson. Only then does Agrifirm want to share her vision. In a statement, the company emphasized the “need to protect the farmers’ revenue model” and “the opportunities that exist in innovation.”

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The Dutch Animal Feed Industry Association (Nevedi) takes the same argument as Agrifirm: the cabinet must first reach an agreement with the farmers. A Nvidi spokesperson says he will not accept RMEX’s invitation at this time. First, the “commitment and framework of discussion to the satisfaction of farmers’ organizations” must be completed.

The same sound comes from the Giant Slaughterhouse Fionn. The Council of Ministers must first enter into talks with the “primary sector” (ie the peasants). After “sustainable progress” from these talks, Fionn is ready to join in, according to a spokesperson.

Broker spokesperson Remkes does not want to publish the list of companies invited to the meeting on Thursday, August 18. “We are still busy doing an inventory and will make our discussion partners public once all participants have been informed.”

Before Rutte and other cabinet members speak to industry representatives next Thursday, a meeting with nature and environment organizations is scheduled for next Monday.