ifoam'96 ifoam'96
Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
EcoWeb Denmark


Development of Dutch policy on organic agriculture.W23

Ham, Paul W.M. van, Leferink, Jenneke.

National Reference Centre Agriculture (Ministry of agriculture) P.O.Box 482, 6710 BL, EDE The Netherlands E-mail: p.w.m.van.ham@ikc.agro.nl

The big issues of the Dutch policy on agriculture are the legislation on manure and pesticides. A memorandum called »Structuurnota« of 1989 states that the Dutch agriculture has to convert to an integrated agriculture which has less emission of nutrients and pesticides to the environment. In that document the organic agriculture received also some attention but no special policy was formulated.
In 1992 the Minister of agriculture sent a memorandum to parliament in which he set out measures to stimulate organic agriculture. Organic agriculture was both seen as a small secondary stream beside the integrated agriculture and as a pioneer in sustainable farming. Actions undertaken include measures covering markets, sale and quality activities, a subsidy for farmers (plant production), agricultural extension, research actions and consumer information. This policy is evaluated in 1995. The results were: -The memorandum showed acknowledgement and recognition of the organic agriculture. Since then there has been a growing political and governemental attention for this subject. -Most of the action had been implemented. -The policy didnt directly stimulate the growth of organic agriculture, which stayed at 10 % through the years.
In the first months of 1996 the Minister has prepared a new policy for organic agriculture. The goal of this policy is to facilitate a substantial growth of the organic agriculture.The headline is facilitating the organic agriculture to get a substantial growth by: -strong emphasis on the marketside, stimulating the demands, improving product quality -extra imput for the organic agricultural knowledge system -laws and regulations -promoting farmconversions
In this new policy organic agriculture is seen as a sector like all the other sectors of the Dutch agriculture. Because it is a young sector it needs some extra, financial, help of the gouvernement. On the strenght of the private sector and with the opportunities in the market, organic agriculture has to devellop itself. In this new policy no attention is given to the fact that organic agriculture is also a new agricultural method, a way of farming, which can/will have consequences for all subjects of agricultural policy. Maybe the reason for this approach is that the concept of `modern conventional agriculture is partly developped in the Netherlands. Organic agriculture is based on other principles and it is not so easy to convert the thougts about agriculture. Beside (or maybe parallel to) this the Dutch agriculture has some extra difficulties for transition to organic agriculture in comparison with other countries: -In the past the Dutch governement has always played an important role in the development of agriculture. On this moment, when sustainable agriculture has to be implemented, governement is changing her attitude towards a position of facilitator for initiatives by the private sector. Because the organic private sector is very small and the conventionel private sector has its own objects this is an extra handicap. -Dutch farms are higly specialized and capital intensive. The ideal of organic agriculture, a mixed farmingsystem, is very difficult to achieve at farmlevel. Mixed farming on a regional level is a better opportunity for the dutch situation. -The demand of organic products in our country is small and hardly growing. The reaction of the farmers is to export. Even in organic agriculture we export some 50-70 % of our products. We have ample conversions in sectors even where prices are good.
Starting many years ago, organic agriculture became a small but interesting sector in Dutch agriculture. At present most people are convinced that organic agriculture is possible on farm level. The next question is: »can organic agriculture be realised on a bigger scale and why should we?«. So, also for the `organic people the working method has to change to cope with the new questions and possibilities.
Conclusions: Organic agriculture is an item in the Dutch agricultural politicy. The stress is laid on developping organic agriculture as a sector in the Dutch agriculture. -The governement (the politics) sees no reason for taking responsiblity in the further development of the organic agriculture as a alternative farming method, but is ready to facilitate futher development by supporting initiatives of the private sector .-The organic and the conventional sector should take this responsibility. Otherwise growth will not accelerate above 10 %. -All parties in the organic field must adapt their working method on the next fase of the development.

Anonymus, (1992), Notitie biologische landbouw, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, the Hague, The Netherlands.

Anonymus, (1995), Evaluatie beleidsnotitie biologische landbouw, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, the Hague, The Netherlands.

Anonymus, (1996), Plan van aanpak biologische landbouw, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, the Hague, The Netherlands.