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.
This is a myth, from which the sector derives preferential treatment. Anyone taking a closer look at this “green fairy tale” will soon see it changing into a huge black hole. Into this hole, not only billions of Euros in subsidies disappear each year - also slowly but surely - morals and values. An immense waste-processing industry is concealed behind the farmsteads and fields.

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.
This tour de force is becoming more and more controversial. The consumer wants honest, wholesome food, not a variation of what has been thrown into the refuse bin. And he only wants to pay for it once: in the shop, and not a second time in taxes.

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.
At a cost of billions of Euros, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers are grown In the Westland region of The Netherlands. Another billion-Euro industry for production of roses, carnations and chrysanthemums has developed around the Aalsmeer area. Although this provides a pretty picture, these plants do not belong here; they normally grow in subtropical regions. In our cold climate, with its short and often wet, cold summers, there is not much money to be made from cultivation of these types of products.

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.
The price a Dutch person pays for his gas is determined by whether he is a bulk or small-scale consumer. Small-scale consumers pay more, bulk consumers pay less. Although an average market gardener uses an enormous amount of gas to keep his greenhouses heated, this is by no means enough to qualify him as a bulk consumer. The following formula, which was devised in the Seventies, takes care of this.   

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.
Since as far back as the late Sixties, a large portion of Dutch market gardening has depended on (to a large extent illegal) workers from Morocco and Turkey. Although razzias (as the market gardeners themselves call them), are held from time to time, these are only for the form. In practice, the Authorities turn a blind eye to this form of illegal work, which is in fact also a form of subsidy, because it reduces employment costs.

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.
The claim that 60% of Dutch agricultural production comes about without subsidy therefore needs to be taken with a generous pinch of salt.