West Frisia, a fertile region full of knowledge and innovation. That the seed industry feeds the worldthere are countless test sites and groundbreaking innovations is thrown up from the ground. The agricultural sector offers many opportunities here. Still, the year 2022 was an eventful year full of discontent, protests and information, especially for our farmers. A look back with dairy farmer Jaap Visser and LTO director Trude Buysman: what does the new year bring?
2022: a year full of stories
Based on remarkable stories, together with the West Frisian editors, we look back at the year 2022. What stood out and how are the main characters doing now? Today we look back with dairy farmer Jaap Visser and LTO director Trude Buysman.
Jaap and Monique Visser’s dairy farm is located on Dorpsweg in Schellinkhout. Together with their three children, they milk about 115 cows and keep young animals. The replacement is already in line, and the roofs of the cattle sheds are full of solar panels. And it’s nobody superfluous luxury, seen more and more farms disappear from the landscape and energy prices continue to rise. But that’s not all.
Reduce the gap
A student, family or tourist with a trolley or weekend bag is no longer a striking sight in the yard. They spend the night in one of the four hayloft cabins, an original way of narrowing the gap between farmer and citizen. The family had been tossing around ideas for a recreational branch for some time. “They can camp or spend the night there for at least two nights. We also involve them in the agricultural business, give them a tour and show them what and how we do it,” says Jaap. “They can also roll up their sleeves and pick up the cows in the pasture, feed the calves and help in the milking shed. We all do that with heart and soul. We don’t paint a romantic picture either: we just show real farm life.”
That experience has been extended for a year. West Frisian schoolchildren are increasingly visiting their educational farm in Schellinkhout, set up by his wife Monique. “It is important that children learn and experience where their food comes from. At the end of the visit, they get a so-called farm diploma,” says Jaap. “It is very much appreciated. Everyone is enthusiastic: we never hear anything negative. They love it and the cows enjoy going outside.”
What does LTO Noord want to see and fight for?
The agricultural sector is not worldwide for Trude Buysman (66). Born as a farmer’s daughter in De Weere, she learns the tricks of the trade. In 2005 she married Nico, a gardener in Bovenkarspel. She has done the work for over 30 years and has been the frontwoman for the agricultural and horticultural organization in West Frisia for a year now. A challenging job, completely voluntary and three days a week. How did she experience 2022?
“Like a chaotic, difficult and very busy year. A lot of lobbying, setting up pilots, sitting around the table, working visits and also protesting at town halls. I’m also taking over the Energy, Water and Planning portfolios until we find a suitable replacement. It’s hectic , but rewarding work.”
Trude is a woman with many hats and sitting still for a long time is not an option: the next crises are already waiting. “In addition to the nitrogen crisis, there is much more to come. Think of the water crisis, persistently low prices and the energy crisis, but also the question of whether there is still a revenue model. These are difficult and uncertain times for many farmers, I feel that myself. There are some that can’t handle the pressure that worries me the most. They throw in the towel and quit. Farms disappear regularly. No matter how many times I say it, it hits me every time.”
‘Keep building and innovating’
How does she look back on this period? “The year of increased regulations. My father did his bookkeeping on the back of a cigar box. Now you need an office.”
And her peak in 2022? “Our annual meeting. Like that 30 percent of the members present are under 40 years of age. This gave a good picture: there seem to be enough successors who want to take over the baton and dive into the agricultural sector and the regulations. I find that extremely important. If we don’t have young people, we don’t have a sector anymore’.
Also next year, Trude will be the external face of the agricultural sector in West Frisia. “But I’m also getting older. I’d like someone younger to step in and take over my duties.” Still, she is looking forward to next year. “Our region has so much to offer. I will continue to work for that.” What does she sink her teeth into? “Ensuring that our PAS reporters (farmers and companies that do not have a full nature permit through no fault of their own, ed.) are allowed to stay, makes room for more nature and that land replacement remains in the works. If only we keep building and innovating.”
PAS reporter: what now?
Still, there is also reason to look at the year 2022 differently. Along with a thousand other milk producers, Jaap Visser is a PAS reporter. “This keeps us busy. The pressure from politics has become very great when it comes to nitrogen. It’s a huhI worrying situation. We don’t have the right license now and I’ve never done anything wrong. We simply acted in accordance with the rules in force at the time. Still, we’re labeled as illegal, and I don’t know how we can fix it in one-two-three. Many dairy farmers share these concerns.”
As an example, he mentions the situation at Schiphol Airport, where several farms are bought up for extra nitrogen space. “But these are actually rights that I need to get control of my milk production. Because if a neighbor stops milking cows and his or her permit becomes vacant, I can take it over. But now Schiphol is buying them up and sits me down with the baked pears. The province says: “we’ll fix this for you”. But in practice nothing happens. It’s a worrying development.”
Was a good year
Despite Jaap having had a good year, the wallet has also been hit hard this year. “Milk prices look good, but our costs are still out of control. We are in a situation that we have not experienced before. The feed, the fertilizer and a variable energy contract: everything is simply huhbecome expensive.”
But there is more, says Jaap from experience. “We are now very busy with the nitrogen crisis. A real problem: residential areas cannot be built and roads cannot be built. But next year there is even more to expect: the water crisis and the climate. This is not how we fertilize at the field edges, we create a flourishing buffer edge , and we grow further away from the ditch so that the water quality is not affected. We have been working on this for years, there is also money from the province.”
Not welcome anymore?
The year 2022 was also a year in which there was a lot of attention for farmers and their fight against the nitrogen policy. Jaap understands the farmers’ protests all too well. “The agricultural sector is angry, frustrated and feels insecure and unheard. There is therefore great dissatisfaction and powerlessness. We produce affordable, safe and high quality food. Yet we are not appreciated by politicians – we think as a sector. The dairy farmer is de pollutes and must give way, because Schiphol needs to grow and roads and housing need to be built. And more must be built, because there is now a housing shortage. It feels like we are no longer welcome. That picture has really changed in the past year. We get in the way of the development of Holland, that’s how we get the idea.”
Nevertheless, he looks forward to next year with a positive feeling. “Because every threat is also an opportunity. I will continue to work to make the Kop van Noord-Holland more biodiverse and literally give it a little more color.”
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