Cutbacks at agricultural employers' organisation

Download article in original language : NL0308102NNL.DOC

The employers’ organisation for the Dutch agriculture and horticulture sector, LTO Nederland, is to make a quarter of its staff redundant, it was announced in summer 2003. The factors behind the move include a continuing decline in the number of farmers and the fact that fewer of them are joining LTO Nederland.

In summer 2003, the Netherlands Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation (Land- en Tuinbouworganisatie Nederland, LTO Nederland) - the employers’ association for the agriculture and horticulture sector (NL0307102F) - announced that it is to make a quarter of its employees redundant in 2003, by not renewing temporary contracts and through 'natural wastage'. The organisation is suffering from financial shortfalls in all its regional organisations apart from that for the south of the country. Since 2000, it has lost almost 23% of its members, with membership numbers dropping by 7% a year. LTO Nederland expects to have fewer than 40,000 members by 2007, which will threaten the continued existence of certain regional organisations. Income is declining not only as a result of fewer contributions, but also because LTO Nederland's commercial activities, such as advice, accountancy and estate agency, are attracting fewer customers. These business services are not expected to generate profits in 2003.

The financial problems faced by LTO Nederland are a direct consequence of the declining numbers of farmers, but also of the fact that fewer farmers are joining the organisation, according to a spokesperson, who also pointed out that farming incomes are under pressure. The major crises in agriculture in recent years, such as BSE, swine fever and fowl pest, along with increasing international competition and liberalisation of trade, have pushed prices down even further, and with costs at a high level, farmers’ incomes have declined. Recent research has found that around 4,000 farmers are leaving the business each year, and it is predicted that the decline will accelerate in the coming years, with only 50,000 farmers remaining in 2013. Half of all farmers are currently over 55 years of age and have no-one to succeed them in their businesses. The only sectors where the situation is less serious is horticulture, bulbs and intensive cattle farming.

Meanwhile, in July 2003 the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries also announced that it would be cutting its workforce by almost a quarter, with 1,200 out of 5,500 full-time jobs to go. The cutbacks, which are to be completed by the end of 2007, will be implemented under the slogan 'fewer policies and fewer rules'. Cuts will be made at the Ministry's regional policy directorates, which will be reduced in number from five to four, while information technology departments will be merged and the implementation of manure policy will be simplified. The Ministry hopes to achieve the cutbacks through redeployment and early retirement, in order to prevent compulsory redundancies.

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