The Dutch agricultural sector likes to project a “green” image: that of an economical sector where, from early morning till late in the evening, farmers work hard to supply the nation with high quality, low priced food. In the meantime, they maintain and preserve the countryside.
Huge amounts of manure of dubious quality are used as soil fertilization for crops. To an important extent, Dutch dairy products are based on by-products from the (luxury) food industries. From a recycling point of view, this is an unknown, but very heavily subsidized tour de force.
All criticism of production methods and the enormous amounts of subsidies has always been shrugged off as nonsense by the Green lobbyists. The interests of farmers have been amply represented at all levels of government in The Netherlands by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party. In Parliament, Provincial States and the Municipal Councils, they set the tone and determined the political-governmental hymn that had to be sung. This position of power has been lost by the Green lobbyists due to waning support for the CDA; the consequences of this are becoming more and more apparent by the day. The interests of farmers are no longer sacred in the governmental structure; they are becoming more and more the subject of criticism.
The shoulder-shrugging attitude of the agricultural leaders has recently changed into one of biting back. The “semi-truth” tactic is applied on a large scale. In discussions about the agricultural sector, leaders keep bringing forward the fact that 60% of Dutch agricultural production comes about without subsidies and in a “green” way. Greenhouse farming is consistently used here as prize example, which is the worse example imaginable.
So, we recreate a subtropical climate in glasshouses. Without heating, the Dutch Summer can be extended in these glasshouses by a few weeks a year. With heating, a subtropical climate can be imitated the whole year through. The source of energy for this purpose is to be found in the gas fields in Slochteren; the relevant subsidy is to be found at the head offices of the Gasunie Company in Groningen.
On a collective basis, all Dutch market gardeners constitute a bulk consumer. In this way, the total Dutch market gardening industry was labeled a bulk consumer. The individual market gardener, being a small-scale consumer, can thus buy gas for the price applying to a bulk consumer, which is a saving of more than 50%. In the strictest sense of the word, this is not a subsidy, but when it sneaks through the back door of the glasshouse, it is!!
Working in the artificial subtropical climate of a glasshouse is not pleasant. Perspiration is barely possible, due to the high humidity which clings to the glass. Then there are certain market gardeners who haven’t exactly earned a good reputation in the past. These factors, combined with the relatively low salaries, are possibly the most important reasons that it is so difficult for them to find personnel.
A third form of backhanded subsidy is to be found at the European borders. Competitors from outside Europe are obliged to pay high levies in order to be able to bring their products to the market. These levies are so high as to be prohibitive; competition is made impossible in this way. This is also a form of subsidy.