1. Sören Pollmann: The increase of biogas productions, corn plantations and the increased boar population in NRW, Germany
The beginning of the conflict is not easy to determine, because the attention to the issue has increased over time. However, the year 2004 is considered to be the beginning, because after this the number of biogas plants has massively increased. It is no locally specific conflict either, but more of a general discussion. However, it is most prominent in areas with high corn field densities. One example are the north western regions of Nordrhein Westfalen.
In this conflict a few parties are involved. The farmers, that grow corn on their land and report increasing numbers of damages to their crops by boars. The biogas plant owners, that use the corn. The local hunters and their representatives, who are tasked to deal with the increased population of wild life.
As main resource this conflict involves corn. The reason for this is that corn is the crop that is mostly used for biogas production in Germany. Of course, biogas can be produced with many other forms of biomass, but the ecological causes are mostly observed on corn.
3.Evaluation of conflict:
According to the “Landwirtschaftskammer NRW” the number of biogas plants has been rapidly increasing from 2005 to 2011. In the following years this growth decreased, and the number stagnated. Along with a rising number in biogas plants, there was an increase in agricultural production for biogas production. According to the BUND the area which is used to grow corn has increased from 2002 to 2012 by 41%. Along with this the population of wild boars has increased. According to the NABU the number of boars that have been killed by hunters has increased by 24% from 2001 to 2017. Along with this the damages done by wild boars have increased. These damages not only appear on corn fields, but also other crops, forest land and gardens in rural areas.
(source: https://www.landwirtschaftskammer.de/landwirtschaft/technik/biogas/veroeffentlichungen/biogas-in-nrw.htm ; last checked: 18.02.2019)
In this conflict the main stakeholders are for one the local government, which benefits the biogas plant owners and farmers. On the other side are local hunters and their associations, who are criticized by organizations focused on environmental protection. This association is used to lobby for hunters.
The local governments and the national policy makers objective is to raise the percentage of energy derived from biomass. This can be done in many ways, but some regions have a bigger potential in certain types of bioenergy. For example the northern part of NRW consists of big agricultural land, which makes the production of biogas easier. Also the production of biogas has been motivated by subsidies and incentives. This benefited the building of new biogas plants. Following the increasing demand for energy crops, local farmers started to grow corn for biogas, because they could get more money out of it. On the other side of the conflict are the hunters, who already pay for the opportunity to lease a specific area in which they can hunt. This lease uses a contract which states some regulations about damages done to nearby agricultural lands by game. Naturally the hunters and the farmers want to keep those at a minimum. To keep the damage as low as possible, the population of game, in this case wild boars, has to be lowered to a certain point. This has become increasingly difficult because the population of wild boars has increased and there are no reliable ways to keep them out of corn fields. As the damage increases, the amount of money hunters have to pay to the farmers to compensate for the lost crops also grows. This comes to the point that some territories are not leased, because these payments would lead to financial ruin. Another stakeholder in this conflict, that is not directly involved are NGOs that focus on environmental protection. Since their goal is to preserve as much of what they consider nature and to decrease human influence, they are usually strongly against the concept of hunting animals. These NGOs have significant influence on some political parties, which in turn can affect the regulations around crop- and also wildlife management.
Since this conflict is mostly addressed in meetings of politicians, it is a disagreement. It is usually also mentioned in publications from either hunting associations or environmental NGOs, who then present their side of the problem.
The previous government of NRW was a coalition of a social and an environmental party. In this period the number of boars that were to be taken out of the populations was much lower than it is now, after a change in government. Another cause could be the EU 20/20/20 plan, which pushes for a higher percentage of bio energies. While this goal is good, the actions of local government might have been to quick, without a proper idea of the consequences. In this case the number of biogas plants and therefore the area where corn is grown has increased to quickly, so that no effective solutions could be found for the increased boar population.
This conflict would keep existing, if the government of NRW would change again in after this period has ended. If the government would decide on new regulations that do not help the situation of hunters, while they would be held responsible for the damages done by wildlife. Another factor would be a lack of specific and effective plans to deal with the situation, because the people involved can feel helpless.
An escalation of the conflict is unlikely in my opinion, as the government has launched a plan to combat the increased population. This has been done in cooperation with the hunting association of NRW (LJV). If this had not been the case, the situation would have gotten worse. This could have lead to growing resentment on the side of the hunters. In the current concept hunting is seen as a good method, which means that the people dealing with the issue are not blamed for the problem, but an active part of the process. A variation of the plan could have been negative towards the hunters. This means a solution for the problem that would be not sufficient and also disadvantageous from the hunters point of view.
4. Keywords and identifiers of the conflict
Bund Friends of the Earth (2014): Biomasse – Energie aus Wald und Acker (https://www.bund-nrw.de/themen/mensch-umwelt/klima-energie/hintergruende-und-publikationen/erneuerbare-energien/biomasse/) last checked: 15.02.2019
Landwirtschaftskammer NRW: Biogas in Nordrhein Westfalen (https://www.landwirtschaftskammer.de/landwirtschaft/technik/biogas/veroeffentlichungen/biogas-in-nrw.htm) last checked: 15.02.2019
NABU: Das Wildschwein (https://nrw.nabu.de/natur-und-landschaft/landnutzung/jagd/jagdbare-arten/weitere-saeugetiere/06816.html) last checked: 16.02.2019
LJV: Bejagungskonzept zur Einhaltung einer weidgerechten Jagdausübung bei der Umsetzung des Erlasses vom 4. Januar 2018 (https://www.ljv-nrw.de/media/1518182822_anhang_1.pdf) last checked: 18.02.2019