Farmers are important stakeholders in area development. A slightly smaller number of farmers (31.5 percent) know how they can influence area development in the region, while 32 percent do not, according to the research.
Provinces work on area plans, where they describe how they approach nature restoration for each Natura 2000 area. They do this in collaboration with stakeholders, including farmers. All provinces should have their first concept ready by May 2022. The final area plan should be completed by July 1, 2023.
Experts warn farmers not to underestimate the acreage process they are going through in the coming years. It is often a long and intensive process, and it requires the very best of entrepreneurship.
The survival of the agricultural business is at stake and thus the future of those involved. Business adviser Rud van Herk from Van Dun Advies in North Brabant says that no agricultural business is the same, just like the associated entrepreneurs. “What suits one farmer is completely wrong for another. You really need adjustment.’
The figures do not surprise the Drenthe area broker Albert van Burgsteden. “As long as we don’t take farmers seriously when it comes to ownership, the area-oriented approach for farmers will remain a far-from-my-bed show. That is why it is super important to restore trust.’
Be aware as an entrepreneur, have a clear plan for your future, be proactive, use your social network and above all don’t wait patiently or think it will blow over. These are just a few of the recommendations that experts come up with in response to the question of how farmers can best prepare for the coming area-oriented approach. It is the process where the nitrogen issue, the water task and climate adaptation are put on the plate of the residents around a Natura 2000 area at once for each sub-area.
Dairy farmer Rudie Freriks from Luttenberg in Overijssel was part of the Natura 2000 Boetelerveld project group and in that capacity was involved in the area process that would lead to the restoration of the nature reserve.
A relatively simple task, compared to the area-oriented approach that many farmers still face, Freriks believes. ‘The task was simple and there was enough land to move companies. Still, it took us nine years.’
The time period for an area process is underestimated, believes the milk producer. ‘It will take much longer than they suggest, especially now that many instruments are still missing. For example, there is not yet a good purchase scheme. And will moving soon be possible? Under what conditions is it possible? There are still countless questions. You wonder what the government has actually done in the past three years.’
Freriks is clear: ‘My first advice to all farmers who will soon have to deal with an area process: Make sure you hire a good adviser. It is not your accountant, but a professional who has had this on hand before. Negotiation is a subtle game. You don’t have that knowledge as a farmer, and you are often too emotionally involved in the competition. Such advisors are more than worth their money.’
Like other experienced experts, the milk producer advises farmers in an area process to think carefully in advance about the course they want to take with their business. ‘Consider it in your family and write it down on paper: What do we want and what are our prerequisites? During an area process, the panels will shift. So it’s good to ask yourself every now and then what your starting point was.’
According to Henk Raaijmakers from the Integral Area Committee Peelvenen, it is important that farmers engage independent advisers to prepare the area process. ‘These are people that the farmers can spar with, trust and use as support when they talk to people about the area-oriented approach.’
Business advisor Rud van Herk from Van Dun Advies is such a person. As a company consultant for spatial planning and the environment, he has extensive experience with redevelopment processes and redevelopment processes in North Brabant. He calls it frustrating for participants in a change process that, for example, there is room in policy for procurement, but that governments are bad at thinking about what needs to happen next.
“We don’t think about the follow-up function for a company that, for example, has had to tear down the stables, while it is precisely there that space needs to be created for these people to do something else. Innovative ideas about this do not fit into the government’s pattern,’ says Van Herk.
Uncertainty is still a risk trap for the entrepreneur, says the business advisor. ‘If you wait and see what happens, you’re usually too late after that. These companies are often the first to be left out. So know what’s going on. Look around for opportunities, keep in touch with those around you and let yourself be heard. Those who lead are often listened to.’
According to Raaijmakers, the area-oriented approach has failed in advance if area mediators and chairmen of area committees fail to restore trust. ‘Dual agendas from ministers and the nitrogen reduction map are not helping us to do the job properly.’
To gain trust
The Drenthesk broker Albert van Burgsteden also finds it necessary to first (re)gain the trust of the farmers involved. ‘This can be done by offering much more perspective and paying more attention to emotions. But that alone will take at least six months to a year.’
Van Burgsteden expects that more farmers will join land processes, if only perspective can be offered. ‘I see changes. When a few farmers start working on such a process, others look over the fence. Recently I had a conversation with farmers where three generations of the same family were present. Grandfather did not want to participate publicly in advance. Dad was careful to color the room on a map. And the youngest took the marker, began to draw and sketched his own perspective’.
Joke Beembroek: ‘Leaving is an option for us’
The last of the two hundred cows owned by Joke Breembroek (62) and her son Anton Oosterhof (23) in Oudega near Drachten left in January. They provide space for a swamp and recreation. ‘Getting out is an option for us.’
Plans have been discussed in Hege Warren since 1984. ‘When there was money again, there were plans again. For a long time we acted as if nothing had happened. It has only become serious in recent years. We wanted to move.’
That changed when Oosterhof had doubts about his future as a farmer last year. He ran the business with his mother after his father died suddenly in 2016. “I was surprised, but I’m glad it was open.” They sold the cows to other farmers. The province bought the 90 hectares of land. Oosterhof studies architecture. Beembroek leaves for Wapse in Drenthe, where she will run a horse boarding house and B&B with friends.
Beembroek remembers the ‘syrupy’ process. “A whole circus is being created. And then the government makes its own plan anyway’. She thinks it is an advantage that a farmer’s representative was present. ‘For example, we were less emotionally involved while there was lobbying.’
Henk Ormel: ‘Prepare for a viscous process’
‘An area process has an impact on your company, but also on your family’, says Henk Ormel (64) from Bruinehaar in Overijssel. ‘It’s not only about whether you can continue to run your business, but also whether you can continue to live and whether you can stay at your own school.’
Ormel has a mixed farm with his brother and their sons with dairy cattle, arable farming and flower bulbs adjacent to Engbertsdijksvenen. The peat area in Twente was given Natura 2000 status in 2004. In 2009, an area process started that should lead to nature restoration. That process is still not complete.
The Ormel family uses around 300 hectares. 150 hectares fall within the planning area. ‘We want to move, but the question is where to go’, says the entrepreneur. Four years ago, the company was assessed, but nothing came of it. Because the province of Overijssel changed the measures, there may be a different valuation. ‘It is a viscous process that requires a lot of negative energy.’
Ormel finds that nature restoration is above all: ‘Legal resources are limited. Socio-economic interests are hardly taken into account’.
Ad Boeren: ‘I see perspective in moving a company’
Ad Boeren (59) from Bavel in North Brabant is considering moving his strawberry and raspberry company because of the natural development in the Ulvenhoutse forest near Breda. ‘For me it’s simple: offering perspective is also moving or stopping.’
The soft fruit grower has three locations in Bavel, Strijbeek and Chaam. In total, Bomu Fruit covers 14 hectares, of which 5 hectares are glass. The company in Bavel is right next to the nitrogen-sensitive Natura 2000 area Ulvenhoutse Bos. Here, a pilot area-oriented approach is underway. ‘That is the end of the story for the location in Bavel. Over the years, we have already donated land three times via the cheese grater method, a total of around 3 hectares,’ says Boeren.
An initial inventory meeting about relocation has taken place. ‘I see something in sustainable relocation. I work with a partner and have a successor. I want to offer them a future. Land and locations with a future perspective are becoming scarce and therefore more expensive. Who will fill that hole?’
Where before the entrepreneurs were not listened to as much, Boeren feels that this is about to change. ‘It will be a fair area process. I am convinced of that.’