The parliamentary majority wants to oblige dairies to buy more sustainable milk, so farmers can manage using fewer cows

Can the Cabinet oblige companies like FrieslandCampina to buy part of the sustainable milk from farmers? A parliamentary majority wants the minister to investigate this matter. It could be a solution for farmers to earn more with fewer animals.

CDA MP Derk Boswijk has asked Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) Piet Adema to investigate whether mixing sustainable milk with ordinary dairy farmers can help them survive. “The ministry is focusing a lot on how farmers can stop, but the challenge is how to ensure that farmers can continue if they want to.”

enter the market

According to Boswijk, adding sustainable milk can ensure that farmers earn more: “Now there are labels for quality and there is organic milk, but not all farmers can participate. Partly because there are so few consumers who buy these products. You have to forcibly intervene in the market.”

The processing industry, such as FrieslandCampina, would then have to purchase a certain percentage of the sustainable milk from the farmers they deal with. “For example, 20 percent. Over time you can increase this mandatory percentage, so that the demand for organic and sustainable products automatically increases,” Bosvik explains. This isn’t the first time this has been suggested. The Future Searches Boer group had previously advised something similar to Johan Remkes, who was then a nitrogen file broker.

Christian Democrat MP Dirk Boswick

Just like biofuels

According to Boswijk, it will take some time to get used to a company like FrieslandCampina. “There will be resistance. This was also the case in the oil industry when biofuels had to be mixed with gasoline, but now we don’t know anything different. The processing industry ultimately has an interest in a sustainable sector.”

In the CDA plan, it’s not that every carton of milk in the supermarket has to be made up of exactly 20 percent sustainable milk, but that processing companies must purchase a mandatory percentage of sustainable milk.

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Milk is a few cents more expensive

According to Boswijk, farmers can get a better price for sustainable milk if the Space Initiatives for Sustainability Act is used. Because of this law, what the consumer pays the most can end up with the entire farmer, he expects.

This means that the price of milk in the supermarket will be a few cents higher. Boswijk: “No one will lose any sleep over that.” And if so? “I see a lot of people with bandanas and upturned flags. That’s great, but above all we have to consume more sustainably and pay more.” It is believed that in order to bring about this change in behaviour, a commitment to adding sustainable milk is required.

Easier to comply with nitrogen guidelines

According to Boswijk, which farmers can participate if the plan goes ahead is not yet entirely clear and will have to be discussed with the sector. He thinks of farmers who now participate in sustainable quality labels, organic farmers, as well as farmers close to nature reserves and willing to stick to nitrogen targets.

Because of the certainty that the latter group of farmers would receive additional money from the industry and could handle fewer animals, they could more easily comply with the nitrogen guidelines.

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An important point in the criticism of compulsory blending of sustainable milk is that a large part of the milk produced in the Netherlands is exported abroad. If this milk becomes more expensive, it will also affect our country’s export situation. Is it feasible to intervene in the Dutch market alone?

Boswijk: “It is our responsibility to withdraw all attempts until the farmer gets his point back. We can influence what we consume ourselves.”

The majority of

In any case, Boswijk’s proposal is receiving support from VVD, D66, ChristenUnie, GroenLinks and PvdA. The two parties want the minister to discuss the proposal to add milk with the sector.

ChristenUnie also pitched the idea today during the Agricultural Budget. MP Peter Greenuis: “ChristenUnie would like to see a promising possibility of adding milk. There are still some bumps in the road: what is sustainable? How do we ensure that the processing industry is really paying a good price to the farmer?” Laura Bromet of GroenLinks also supports the proposal, although she would prefer the entire sector to become sustainable, rather than just part of it.

“sympathetic, yet easily attainable”

In reaction, FrieslandCampina says they “find at first sight the suggestion to add milk sympathetic”. “But we believe there are more effective and more easily achievable means of achieving the same goal and where the farmer is fairly rewarded for his sustainability efforts.”

The company indicates the further promotion of dairy products under independent quality labels, such as On the way to PlanetProof or Scale.

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