More and more mega stables, while the government wants fewer 16:02 in the Netherlands There are more and more mega stables, while the number of non-mega stables is decreasing. This is at odds with what the outgoing cabinet wants: more ‘nature-inclusive’ agriculture.

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  • Sarah Bürmann

    editor Domestic

  • Sarah Bürmann

    editor Domestic

The number of mega stables in the Netherlands continues to increase. This is evident from new figures that NOS requested from the Central Bureau of Statistics. The trend goes against the plans of the outgoing cabinet. “This type of agriculture no longer suits the Netherlands,” says outgoing Agriculture Minister Adema about the increase in the number of mega stables.

Gerard Klop from Maasbommel, together with other residents of the Gelderland village, is taking action against the arrival of three livestock farms that house thousands of animals. “Farmers, that’s fine, we have no problem with that at all,” he says. “But these stables with thousands of goats, pigs and calves so close to the village are no longer possible.”

Every year more farms with large numbers of livestock are added. The most recent figures show that there were 1,065 such stables last year, or 3.7 percent more than in 2021. In five years, the number has increased by 13.9 percent.

This growth is at the expense of smaller stables, because there are fewer and fewer of them. In 2022 there were 3.4 percent fewer than the year before. In the past five years, the number of smaller stables decreased by 14.7 percent.

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“Really an undesirable development,” says outgoing minister Adema. “We need to move to a different scale of agriculture in the Netherlands, in line with a real family business. This type of stables does not fit in with that.”

One of the livestock farmers who wants to build a mega stable in Maasbommel thinks it is nonsense that Klop labels his stable as a problem. “The total number of animals in the Netherlands is not increasing,” he says. Stables are also now a lot cleaner than before, because stricter sustainability rules apply.

Old stables demolished

Linda Verriet from the interest group for the pig farming sector (POV) responds on behalf of the two other livestock farmers. “What is happening here is that old stables are being demolished and sustainable, new stables are being built in their place,” she says. So many more animals, but in cleaner stables.

Yet Gerard Klop does not understand why the government is issuing permits for the large stables “at a time when the cabinet and the provinces are busy tackling the nitrogen problem”.

Municipalities are responsible for the environmental permit required to build. Provinces issue nature permits, which regulate, among other things, the permission for nitrogen emissions.

No fill-in-the-blank exercise

But according to the Interprovincial Consultation, which represents the interests of the provinces, it is not possible to simply reject a permit application. “Issuing a permit is not a free exercise,” a spokesperson said. If the applicant meets all requirements and rules, the province must issue the permit, he says.

Klop believes that the rules should change. “As long as no political decision is made, farmers will take their chances and say: it is allowed, it is possible. So it is politics’ turn.”

Needed to make enough money

According to Verriet, who speaks on behalf of two of the livestock farmers in Maasbommel, farmers cannot avoid keeping more animals if they have modern, clean stables built. Without the extra animals, they cannot recoup the expensive investment and their revenue model is in jeopardy.

That revenue model was one of the most important points during the discussions about the agricultural agreement. That agreement was intended to ensure that farmers can become more sustainable, but also continue to earn enough money. But the consultation collapsed this summer and the agreement was not reached.

Adema calls this “an incredible shame”, because he wanted to improve the farmer’s revenue model. Nevertheless, Adema believes that the plans that were on the table should continue. He “very much hopes” that a new cabinet will “really take steps in this”, because “this type of agriculture no longer suits the Netherlands”.

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