Netherlands is ‘buying and closing’ 3,000 farms due to climate rules

Netherlands is 'buying and closing' 3,000 farms due to climate rules
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Netherlands to close up to 3,000 farms to comply with preservation rules stipulated by the European Union; Producers protest against authoritarian measures

The Dutch government plans to buy and close up to 3,000 farms near environmentally sensitive areas to comply with European Union (EU) nature conservation rules. The Netherlands is trying to reduce its nitrogen pollution and will go ahead with compulsory purchases if not enough farms take up the offer voluntarily.

Farmers will receive a settlement “well above” the value of the farm, under the government’s plan to close 2,000 to 3,000 farms or other big polluting businesses. Previous leaked versions of the plan put the value at 120% of the value of the farm, but this number has not yet been confirmed by the ministers.

“There is no better offer coming,” Christianne van der Wal, the minister responsible for these issues, told lawmakers on Friday. She said the compulsory purchases would be done with “pain in my heart” if necessary.

Netherlands is 'buying and closing' 3,000 farms due to climate rules
Photo: Disclosure

Threatened biodiversity

The Netherlands needs to reduce its emissions to comply with EU conservation rules and agriculture is responsible for almost half of the nitrogen emitted in the proud farming nation. The Dutch environmental agency has warned that native species are disappearing faster in the Netherlands than in the rest of Europe and that biodiversity is threatened.

But the new plan looks set to reignite tensions with farmers over nitrogen cuts. Dutch farmers have staged mass protests, burned hay bales, strewn manure on roads and blocked ministers’ homes over the past three years.

In 2019, a decision by the Dutch Council of State meant that every new activity that emits nitrogen, including agriculture and construction, needs a permit. This prevented the expansion of dairy, pork and poultry farms, which are the main sources of ammonia nitrogen in manure mixed with urine. This can be harmful to nature when it reaches rivers and the sea.

Holland is 'buying and closing' 3 thousand farms due to climate rules 3
Photo: Disclosure

Last month, an army of thousands of tractors took to the roads in protest and caused the worst rush hour in Dutch history, with more than 1,100 kilometers of traffic jams at the peak. Farmers fear that the plan to reduce emissions by 2030 will cost them their livelihood, oppose any compulsory purchases and argue that agriculture is an unfair target while other sectors, such as aviation, are not.

‘Constraints without perspective’

Farmers’ lobby group LTO Nederland said confidence in government “it’s been too low for too long🇧🇷 He accused the Government of drawing up “restrictions without perspective”. Sjaak van der Tak, chairman of LTO, said: “Of course it is positive that a good voluntary shutdown scheme is being promised. But the perms that are core to us will have a lot of additional restrictions imposed.”

Agractie, another farmers’ organisation, said the voluntary closure scheme was welcome but should not be enforced with the threat of compulsory purchase.

Ministers will decide whether enough farms have come forward voluntarily to close in the autumn. They say the plan will help restore biodiversity, construction can resume, and farms without proper nitrogen licenses can be legalized.

They are also considering eventually taxing nitrogen emissions to encourage more sustainable practices, the Dutch News website reported. The Dutch cabinet also wants to work out a long-term plan for the future of agriculture with farmers, environmental groups and local government.

The voluntary takeover scheme was “the only way to finally create opportunities for building houses, building new infrastructure and building projects to make the Netherlands more sustainable in the shortest possible time,” said Ingrid Thijssen, president of VNO-NCW, a federation of employers in the Netherlands.

Last month, the Dutch Assessment Agency said other takeover schemes over the past 25 years had failed to substantially reduce the number of livestock.

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