****i am having trouble uploading photos on blogger, if you would like to see my full blog with photos please follow me on twitter @CarlyButtrose *********
Well I have been a little bit slack with my blog for the last couple of weeks! I am finding it hard to sit still long enough to get things down on the iPad....
Well I left you in Washington, we flew across to London and everything was going well until jase got held up in security and missed the plane! Not to worry, he caught the next one and 3 hours later we were able to meet Djuka and Henk, 2011 Nuffield Scholars from the Netherlands who would be showing us around for the next 5 days.
The Netherlands farming industry is fascinating, there is 70 million Ha of farming land and 70 ,Million people live there, so there is a huge urban population which provides challenges as well as opportunities. Farm sizes are small but intensive, with the average farm size being 27ha (land worth 40 000/ha to buy, 1200 euro/ha to lease). The Dutch are also the second biggest exporters in the world after the US, a large portion of this being value added agricultural products and flowers. The Dutch have a generation that is totally removed from farming, no one knows where their food comes from so there is an emphasis on trying to educate with open days and farmers mingling in cities as part of a public campaign to promote farmers and the sustainable way they manage the land.
Dutch farmers are heavily regulated, both by the government through the CAP (central agricultural policy which applies to all farmers in the European Union) as well as by their urban society which have some very unrealistic expectations revolving around animal welfare. For example supermarkets have made a statement that they are committed to only buying 'sustainable' meat by 2020, and They, along with consumer will decide what is sustainable, and what is not. Farmers are in a risky position!
The government regulates farmers through the CAP and the individual farm payment scheme. Dutch farmers are heavily subsidised with some farmers recieving up to 900 euro per hectare! Initially we, as unsubsidised Australian and NZ farmers, thought this was an excessive amount, and we felt there was no way we could trade on a global scale in a fair way when farmers receiving this amount of money could afford to sell cheap commodities. However, as the week went on we realised the farmers really did need this payment as the constraints that are put on their production through zoning, quotas, and fertiliser restrictions, compulsory biodiversity (the new CAP will insist on a minimum of 3 different crops grown on each farm ant any one time) were costing them a lot.
Whilst we were in the Netherlands the new CAP had been passed to come into effect in 2015 .which had been modified to be more world trade friendly, with subsidies moving away from commodity based payments to a broader per ha subsidy of around 450 euro, which will halve the incomes of some highly subsidised farmers. This new payment will be attached to greening procedures, and farmers will be expected to return some of their more fragile land to nature conservation and biodiversity. The new CAP will also remove quotas from milk production giving dairy farmers an opportunity to expand.
The biggest thing I took away from the Netherlands leg was marketing, marketing, marketing!!!! From the farmer level, promoting themselves to the consumer and the resellers and ingenious farmers branding their product and getting great premiums. For example, Friesland Campigna (the biggest dairy coop in The Netherlands, same size as Fontera in NZ) had a advertising campaign where they took dairy farmers and some of their cows and did an exhibition in some of the cities and it was incredibly successful. They also have pictures of their farmers on their packaging.
Some farmers are marketing their produce specifically to the consumer who is worried about animal welfare, such as the Lindenhoff company, which is still family owned and run. They grow out a French breed of cattle in a semi housed environment which has an emphasis on comfort and aesthetics, such as pretty trees growing in the pens! But it works, they butcher their own meat (will received twice the money as 'conventional' beef), and have viewing lounges where chefs can come and watch their meat being processed. For example, Jamie Oliver has actually filmed a segment cooking in the actual feedlot building! It was an incredibly successful business and had a lot of points which Kangaroo Island could use into the future.
Well, I could go on and on about the marketing side of things - but my train tomLondon is about to arrive and I need to get my formal attire out so they will let me into the Farmers Club!
Cheerio ol' chappys
Enjoy my happy snaps below :)