Trend research: Emigrate? Yes, if there is no clear policy

Every fifth farmer in the Netherlands is considering emigrating. Agricultural entrepreneurs most often mention Canada as a new dream destination. In Europe, Denmark, Germany and Sweden are particularly popular.

In the New Harvest Trend Survey 2023, 19.8 percent of the farmers who took part in the survey indicate that they sometimes think about emigrating. It is a little more than a year ago. Then 18.7 percent answered the same question that they might want to emigrate.

If you go to a developed country, you will encounter rules everywhere

Jonathan Wagenvoort, Wagenvoort Consulting

Canada was already the most popular emigration country last year and is again this year with a large majority. Almost half of the farmers considering emigration see Canada as a good opportunity. Denmark, Germany and Sweden are each considered dream emigration countries by more than 20 percent of farmers.

Tired of uncertainty

When asked about their reasons for leaving the Netherlands and farming elsewhere, many agricultural entrepreneurs say that they are tired of the uncertainty in our country. They see no future for their companies in the Netherlands due to regulations, space pressure, high taxes and production costs and a negative sentiment around the sector.

‘We are not wanted here,’ says one of the survey participants. Another says that farmers in the Netherlands have to comply with many more rules than abroad. ‘It puts us in such an unfavorable position that it is almost impossible to run a business in a normal way.’

Constant interference

A third farmer says that he has felt constant interference since the 1980s. “From anyone who can say something, often hiding behind scientists who will not bite the hand that feeds them.”

‘It is demotivating to cook for people for whom you can never do it right, and who make the work impossible and unpleasant,’ sighs one survey participant. ‘In other countries, safe food and thus the food producers are still valued’, this farmer gives as his motivation for wanting to emigrate.

Jonathan Wagenvoort runs Wagenvoort Advice with his father and advises and guides farmers who want to emigrate. He recognizes himself in the view that interest in agriculture elsewhere is increasing because of the uncertainty here.

The farmers do not want to leave

What Wagenvoort notes is that many farmers actually don’t want to leave at all. But the choice is made for them. There is nothing in cans and jugs now. Nothing is determined. The largest group of farmers will just stay here. But if the choice is whether they want to remain a farmer or not, then they will emigrate’.

The emigration advisor mainly specializes in the USA and Denmark. Interest is greatest in the latter country, although it is now difficult for many farmers to choose which country they want to go to.

“If a professional ban is placed on farmers who have been bought out, then you cannot start again elsewhere in the EU, because it is unfair competition. Then you automatically end up outside Europe. We see a lot of interest in Wisconsin. The American state resembles the Netherlands in terms of agricultural structure,’ explains Wagenvoort.

No hasty decision

According to the emigration adviser, the farmers do not have too rosy a picture of emigration. They don’t rush into a decision either. “Those who want to stay in Europe are very aware that they are choosing more space, but not different rules. If you go to a developed country, you will encounter rules everywhere. But space is essential, and that space is limited and expensive in the Netherlands.’

The latest figures from Eurostat confirm this picture. In the Netherlands, an average of more than 71,000 euros is paid for one hectare of agricultural land, by far the most in the EU.

Young farmers

According to Wagenvoort, it is primarily young farmers who actually emigrate. “They were, for example, in partnership with their parents, but see too little perspective for themselves in the Netherlands. The slightly older group, who settled with children and are between 35 and 45 years old, are still waiting to see what the government will do.’

The emigration advisor believes that the proportion of farmers considering emigration will not increase much in the coming years. The reason for this is the large number of old farmers in the Netherlands (for illustration: 77 percent of the respondents are older than fifty). “The older farmers don’t want to go, they stop at a certain point. We are not going to have a huge wave of emigration’.

‘In Canada respect for farmers’

Canada is by far the most popular country for farmers to emigrate to. When asked about their reasons for choosing this land, the farmers who completed the Trend Survey see different advantages of the land. ‘Canada is extremely hospitable and they respect farmers’, says one of the participants who indicated that they once did an internship in Canada. Another farmer says the market is better protected and prices are better. A third praises the room. ‘And the lifestyle appeals to me.’

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