Farmers in the Netherlands have been angered by the government’s plans for tougher measures that would drastically reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides.
The Dutch government unveiled its goals on Friday, mandating reductions of up to 70% in many places and as high as 95% in others in a bid to protect nature — or what the cabinet called an “unavoidable transition”.
“We have to emit so much less nitrogen, and unfortunately the agricultural sector emits a lot,” explained Christianne van der Wal, Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy.
“They have done an awful lot to emit less, but unfortunately that is not enough. It still needs to be reduced a lot more.”
However, the decision is expected to lead to major upheavals in the country’s multi-billion euro agricultural industry.
The small, densely populated country of 17.5 million has a large animal population — nearly four million cattle, 12 million pigs and 100 million chickens.
The Netherlands is the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world after the US.
“Our members say it’s enough, the limit has been reached,” said Sjaak van der Tak from the country’s agricultural and horticultural association, LTO Nederland.
“That means we will prepare appropriate actions to make clear, in a dignified way, that these plans are not acceptable.”
Sustainability, relocation or termination are the options that farmers are faced with, and the government has made available €24.3 billion in subsidies during the transitional period.
The nitrogen plan must lead to a 50% reduction in total nitrogen emissions by 2030.