News - June 21, 2012

Concentration of livestock a failure

The Dutch province of Brabant has followed the example of Overijssel province in abandoning the policy of concentrating intensive livestock farming in agricultural development zones. A good thing too: that 'reconstruction policy' was out of date, says Froukje Boonstra of Alterra.

The reconstruction plans were a form of blueprint planning in which it was decided for years ahead where intensive livestock farmers were to be allowed to expand, and where not.
Pig farmers from vulnerable nature areas who wanted to expand could get a subsidy to move to one of the agricultural development zones (LOGs). But the dynamics of the market and of society soon made the idea obsolete. The government expected about 250 livestock farmers to move to the LOGs but the actual numbers turned out to be much smaller. What is more, the provinces allowed the farmers to expand at their current locations, removing the urgency of moving to a LOG.
Growing resistance to the idea of the LOGs played a role too. The original reconstruction plans were supported by provincial environmental organizations because moving the farms was better for the environment, but later Milieudefensie [Friends of the Earth] effectively mobilized opposition to intensive livestock farming. For residents in the designated areas, the plans seemed remote from their lives until they became policy. Instead of zoning farming companies, provinces and municipalities now want to evaluate livestock farmers' building plans at existing locations for sustainability - in terms of the environment, animal welfare, public health and how it fits into the surroundings. Moving is by no means always necessary as there is now more technology available for environmentally friendly farming. However, this does make demands of the municipalities: are they capable of making an overall judgment on the sustainability of the farm when they assess it for a license? Do they have the expertise to do this?