“We must quickly start paying the right price for our food”

ACM and Johan Remkes are now also in favor of taxing non-sustainable food in supermarkets, according to Jeroom Remmers from the TAPP coalition. Such a tax is good for sustainability and good for farmers. Read his opinion piece below:

Groceries have gotten a lot more expensive lately. But our food is still cheap. At least the unsustainable food. Sustainable food is far too expensive. At Albert Heijn you pay 2.49 euros for 300 grams of half and half minced meat. Organic minced meat: 3.99 euros. It is 5 euros more expensive per kilo.

In October, both ACM and Johan Remkes made recommendations in their nitrogen report to reduce the price difference between non-sustainable and sustainable products. Non-sustainable food is cheaper because there are no external environmental costs and a fair price for the farmer. Consumers are now not paying the ‘real price’ for food.

In his advice, Remkes proposed a tax on non-sustainable food in supermarkets. It must promote the sale of sustainable dairy products and meat from farmers near vulnerable natural areas if they keep fewer animals and switch to, for example, organic livestock farming. After three years of research, the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets advised the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to include the environmental impact of production in the price of ‘conventional’ products and to make sustainable food cheaper through VAT reductions or subsidies.

“Break the ‘too little’ mentality”
According to Eurostat, food (and meat) in supermarkets is about sixteen percent more expensive than in France, according to Eurostat. There are higher standards for protecting the environment, animal welfare and farmers. For example, since 2017 there has been a law that prohibits supermarkets from stunting with food. Food may only be sold if it has been sold for at least 10 percent more than the purchase price. Mega stables are excluded, just like genetically modified agriculture, there is a tax on pesticides. More types of agricultural poisons are banned in France than in the Netherlands. Almost 20 percent of the farmers are organic, and 10 percent of the area.

And then Holland. Here, the proportion of organic farmers is much lower at 3.8%. Mega-stables are springing up like mushrooms here, there is no tax on pesticides and no protection for farmers against the supermarkets’ rampant behaviour. French families spent 20 percent of the household budget on food and drink. In the Netherlands it is 12.5 percent. This means that we spend the least on food of all Europeans. The ‘much for little’ mentality must be broken with the help of the government, says Remkes. There should be a tax on non-sustainable food, whereby the revenue from the tax can be used to help farmers expand and transition to organic or nature-inclusive farming. A stunt ban should also be introduced for supermarkets. This was argued by both the interest organization Agractie and the non-profit organization TAPP Coalitie.

VVD celebrity Johan Remkes proposed a zoning of the Netherlands for different types of agriculture. In the so-called orange, yellow and green areas, farmers mainly have to be more extensive in order to reduce livestock and switch to, for example, organic livestock farming. They should ideally produce for the Dutch market. Remkes: “This means that the government must try to sell as much production of these kinds of companies as possible in supermarkets as well as in food services (restaurants and other services). Good conversations will be needed about how to do that. , too with the supermarkets, the restaurant industry and the chain parties themselves. It should not be a matter of talk or knowledge alone, hard measures are also needed. In this track, attention must also be paid to influencing consumer behavior, either through taxes on non-food products. sustainable products , either through education and campaigns.” In short: Remkes wants a ‘hard’ tax on livestock products such as non-sustainably produced meat and dairy, and this must be included in the cabinet plan and the Agricultural Agreement. To give farmers an economically sustainable future perspective. The cabinet indicated that it would adopt Remkes’ plan in its entirety and present that plan in November, so the tax with recirculation is part of it. If the already announced research into this is completed at the end of March 2023, the plan can still be included in Tax Plan 2024.

Proposal for the real price of meat
There is a well-thought-out proposal for a meat tax, where supermarkets and consumers must contribute to the environmental costs of releasing nitrogen and greenhouse gases. This can also be done with dairy products. Organic meat and dairy products could be exempted from this tax, which Carola Schouten, former Minister of Agriculture, had included in ChristenUnie’s election programme. On April 20, 2020, Wopke Hoekstra, then Minister of Finance, sent this proposal for a realistic price for meat to the House of Representatives. Since last spring, a parliamentary majority of among others PVV, VVD and CDA have blocked the proposal, but now that Remkes wants a tax on non-sustainable food, with a return to livestock farmers, CDA and VVD have to scratch their heads.

0% VAT on healthy and sustainable food
Such a charge can be sold right now to support our farmers. The plan can be successful if healthy and sustainable food simultaneously becomes cheaper from January 2024 by transferring more products from the VAT rate of 9 percent to the rate of 0 percent. Not just fresh fruit and vegetables, as the government wants, but also processed vegetables, organic foods, bread, whole grain products and meat and dairy substitutes. Then all consumers get a net benefit when they shop, even if non-sustainable meat and dairy products become somewhat more expensive.

For more information: info@tappcoalitie.nl and www.tappcoalitie.nl

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