Science - June 24, 2011

Abolishing product boards would threaten applied research

Many farmers, market gardeners and politicians are dissatisfied with the product boards and are considering abolishing them. That would cost applied research at Wageningen UR a lot of money.

Farmers and market gardeners have to pay a compulsory contribution to the product boards. The boards use these contributions to carry out tasks on behalf of the government, lobby for the sector's interests and commission research for the sector. Various political parties think the product boards are an outdated concept. In the Dutch Lower House, the PVV (right-wing populist party) and D66 (liberal party) are in favour of abolishing them but the CDA (Christian democrats) is fiercely opposed. The VVD (the largest liberal party) holds a key position: sometimes it advocates abolishing the product boards and at other times it advocates modernizing them.
Getting rid of the product boards would have a big impact on applied research at Wageningen UR, says the farming newspaper Agrarisch Dagblad. The product boards have commissioned applied research worth more than 15 million euros from Wageningen UR Livestock Research and Applied Plant Research (PPO). The research concerns new housing systems, fertilizer trials, methods for dealing with diseases and pests, and new greenhouse systems.
Farmers vary in their degree of support for the product boards. Dairy farmers and intensive livestock farmers are the most positive while market gardeners are the most negative. There are product boards for livestock and meat (PVV), poultry and eggs (PPE), dairy products (PZ), arable farming (PA), margarine, fats and oils (MVO), horticulture (PT), animal feed (PDV) and wine (!) (PW).