Brussels has many ambitions for a greener future. These ambitions trickle down to municipalities, provinces and farmers on a local level. Although they bring opportunities and possibilities, at the same time they create an accumulation of rules and regulations that make working in agriculture difficult. We talk to Iris Bouwers about finding a balance between policies that keep farmers happy and policies that achieve European goals.
The images of protesting farmers on the motorway, at the Malieveld in The Hague and at various provincial offices in the country are still fresh in our minds. Before COVID erupted, the nitrogen crisis dominated the news in the Netherlands. Farmers face many challenges ranging from changing agricultural to climate policies. “Brussels” has many ambitions: consider the European Green Deal, the farm-to-table strategy and the European biodiversity strategy. What does this accumulation of legislation look like in the practice for farmers? How do national and local politicians deal with these European directives?
We ask Iris Bouwers. As a lobbyist for the farmers' interest group LTO in Brussels, co-owner of a horticulture and cattle farm and former city councillor, she can be called a true practical expert. Iris was brought up on farm work. The desire to remain active as a farmer is her main motivation to be active in Brussels politics: ''I am 28 now, in 30 years I still want to be a farmer''.
In the interview, we discuss the everyday work of a lobbyist in Brussels. What do you actually do there and how do you maintain the dialogue with your supporters in the Netherlands? We discuss topics such as nitrogen, climate change, sustainability and nature. We also learn about the deep fear existing among farmers: will they soon have to be bought out en masse, as a consequence of European directives?
The podcast is part of Global Gossip's series of specials on the influence of Europe on local politics in the Netherlands. Are you curious? You can listen to the podcasts on Spotify or iTunes.