Agriculture overhauled

It is time for a ‘New Deal’ between farmers and society

Yesterday the winners of the Dutch bread and games competition were announced. Initiators Floris Alkemade (Chief Government Architect) and Berno Strootman (Government Advisor for the Landscape) called upon landowners and designers to come up with joint radical, realistic and feasible proposals to get the countryside healthy again.

‘The Dutch countryside has all the characteristics of a’ bankrupt system ‘, says Government Architect Floris Alkemade today in de Volkskrant. ‘Biodiversity is decreasing, soil quality is decreasing, the landscape is shrinking and the rural population is aging. Farmers must stop because they can no longer keep their heads above water.

‘We have built an extremely efficient agricultural system in the Netherlands. Our food is getting cheaper. “But the social price we pay for this is sky-high. “The countryside suffers.”

‘When things start to go rural, everything goes wrong,’ says Berno Strootman, Government Advisor for the physical environment. ‘The landscape belongs to us all, Strootman emphasizes,’ but the farmers give it form. 70 percent of our country is farmland. We make this available to farmers as a society to manage and produce food. In that they were shot through. The landscape has been sacrificed over the past decades to produce as efficiently and intensively as possible. ‘

‘The farmers themselves also see that things have to be done differently,’ says Alkemade. “There is no farmer who wants to leave the country worse than he found it. The landscape has always been the result of agricultural use. We must reverse that. We must set clear preconditions for agriculture in matters such as image quality, cultural history, biodiversity, clean air, clean water and healthy soil. It is of course idiotic that our country is being depleted to make milk powder for China! Our farmers produce for the world market, while we get a large part of our food from elsewhere. That must be different. You have to link farmers to the local population and ask yourself: what do we need as a country? If you count on all costs, such as the decline of the landscape and the loss of biodiversity, you will not start from a purely economic model, but you will calculate the actual costs. It is time for a ‘New Deal’ between farmers and society. ‘

Bread & Games: the winning proposals

  1. Make local consumers co-owner

Make consumers co-owners of the farm from which they purchase their food. The idea is that if consumers talk to themselves, farmers can produce what they actually need.

  1. Nature-inclusive regional farm

A regional farm based on the principles of permaculture: a form of agriculture where the harvest comes from perennials, instead of annual crops. Fertilizers and pesticides are not involved.

  1. Twente acorns

Why should not we eat acorns? Oak meal contains as much energy as wheat flour. One hectare of wheat yields more than one hectare of oak trees, but for wheat, manure and pesticides are needed. Oaks can be without.

  1. Star farmers

Michelin stars are a household name in the restaurant world. Why should we not be able to import it for farmers? Many farmers look for different ways of doing business, more in keeping with the landscape and nature. The award of stars could give them a boost.

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