Dutch dairy fraud case forces temporary ban on 2,100 cattle farms
Signs of fraud in the registering of dairy cows were found at 2,100 cattle farms, Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality announced in a letter to the Tweede Kamer on Thursday. These farms are blocked, which means that no animals can be transported or removed, while further investigation is done, the Minister said.
In the Netherlands each dairy cow must be registered on the Identification and Registration (I&R) system as a livestock unit. A heifer, which hasn't birthed a calf yet and therefore hasn't started producing milk, counts as half a livestock unit. The farmers of the 2,100 now blocked farms are suspected of fraudulently registering multiple calves as being birthed to a single cow, so that they could underreport the size of their herds.
"The past week we got a better picture of the companies who tampered with the I&R and it appears to be a considerable number. I have asked the NVWA and RVO.nl to investigate all possible deviations in the I&R", Schouten said. "Any form of fraud is unacceptable and must be tackled hard. We must prevent companies that do keep to the rules from becoming victims of companies that tamper with the system." In addition to facing additional levies and cuts to their subsidies, farmers found committing fraud may face criminal prosecution.
Farmers register the milk production of their cows and date of births of calves in various administration systems. By comparing the data on these systems with information on the I&R, Dutch food safety authority NVWA found irregularities pointing to fraud. So far the NVWA and RVO.nl analyzed 150 farms, and the investigation continues in the coming period.
The Netherlands won a special exemption from the EU to use more manure on farms as long as it reduces the amount cattle in the country. The reduction is supposed to equal 8.3 percent fewer livestock units than were in the Netherlands on 2 July 2015, according to a government statement in December.
That statement praised the Dutch agricultural sector for being on a path to meet European phosphate limits. It is not yet clear how the suspected fraud affects the Netherlands ability to hit the EU’s target. The European Commission is expected to rule in April on granting the Netherlands another exemption through 2021.