Netherlands Dairy Farmers “No Longer Allowed To Exist” Due to “Climate Tyranny”

(p. 6) WOUDENBERG, Netherlands — The dairy farmers of the Netherlands have had enough.

They have set fire to hay and manure along highways, dumped trash on roads to create traffic jams, and blockaded food distribution centers with their tractors, leading to empty shelves in supermarkets. Across the country, upside down flags wave from farmhouses in protest.

The anger of the farmers is directed at the government, which has announced plans for a national 50 percent reduction of nitrogen emissions by 2030, in line with European Union requirements to preserve protected nature reserves, that they believe unfairly targets them. Factories and cars also emit large amounts of nitrogen and have not been targeted, they say, although the government said that cuts associated with both polluters would be addressed in the future.

Agriculture is responsible for the largest share of nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands, much of it from the waste produced by the estimated 1.6 million cows that provide the milk used to make the country’s famed cheeses, like Gouda and Edam.

To realize those planned cuts, thousands of farmers will be required to significantly reduce livestock numbers and the size of their farming operations. If they cannot meet the cuts the government demands of them, they may be forced to close their operations altogether.

The Dutch government has set aside about 25 billion euros, about $26 billion, to carry out its plan, and some of that money will be used to help farmers build more sustainable operations — or buy them out, if possible.

“My livelihood and my network is being threatened,” said Ben Apeldoorn, whose farm in the province of Utrecht has about 120 cows producing milk for making cheese. “You’re just no longer allowed to exist,” said Mr. Apeldoorn, 52, who has been a farmer for 30 years.

. . .

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who this month became the country’s longest-serving prime minister and has grappled with what is known in the Netherlands as “the nitrogen crisis,” has condemned the protests, calling them “unacceptable.”

. . .

Helma Breunissen, 47, a dairy farmer who with her husband also runs a veterinarian’s office, attended one of the meetings with Mr. Rutte to make her anger known.

“If half of the cattle needs to disappear, then my veterinary’s office will also end,” Ms. Breunissen said by telephone. “I don’t want a bag of money from the government, I just want to do my job.”

. . .

While many Dutch support the aims of a greener Netherlands, some right-wing groups have expressed support for the Dutch farmers as a way of opposing climate activism. The right-wing Forum for Democracy has declared that “there is no climate crisis” and opposes the government’s plans.

And the Dutch farmers have also received some support from abroad.

“Farmers in the Netherlands — of all places — are courageously opposing the climate tyranny of the Dutch government, can you believe it?” former President Donald J. Trump said at a rally last month.

For the full story, see:

Claire Moses. “Emission Cuts in the Netherlands Have Dairy Farmers Up in Arms.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 21, 2022): 6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 20, 2022, and has the title “Dairy Farmers in the Netherlands Are Up in Arms Over Emission Cuts.” Where there is a minor difference between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

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