EXPLAINER: Why are Dutch farmers protesting over emissions?

Jun 28, 2022, 5:23 AM | Updated: 5:56 am
Dutch farmers protesting against the government’s plans to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and...

Dutch farmers protesting against the government’s plans to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia gather for a demonstration at Stroe, Netherlands, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Thousands of farmers drove their tractors along roads and highways across the Netherlands, heading for a mass protest against the Dutch government’s plans to rein in emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia. (AP Photo/Aleksandar Furtula)

(AP Photo/Aleksandar Furtula)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Farmers protested around the Netherlands as lawmakers voted Tuesday on proposals to slash emissions of damaging pollutants, a plan that will likely force farmers to cut their livestock herds or stop work altogether.

The government says emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia, which livestock produce, must be drastically reduced close to nature areas that are part of a network of protected habitats for endangered plants and wildlife stretching across the 27-nation European Union.

As tractors gathered outside the parliament building, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said farmers have the right to protest but not to break the law.

“Freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate are a vital part of our democratic society, and I will always defend them,” Rutte said. “But … it is not acceptable to create dangerous situations, it is not acceptable to intimidate officials, we will never accept that.”

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSING?

The ruling coalition wants to cut emissions of pollutants, predominantly nitrogen oxide and ammonia, by 50% nationwide by 2030. Ministers call the proposal an “unavoidable transition” that aims to improve air, land and water quality.

They warn that farmers will have to adapt or face the prospect of shuttering their businesses.

“The honest message … is that not all farmers can continue their business,” and those who do will likely have to farm differently, the government said in a statement this month as it unveiled emission reduction targets.

Livestock produce ammonia in their urine and feces. The government in the past has called on farmers to use feed for their animals that contains less protein as a way of reducing ammonia emissions. The problem is compounded in the Netherlands, which is known for its intensive farming practices, with large numbers of livestock kept on small areas of land.

It is not only farmers being targeted. In the past, the government also has cut the national maximum speed limit on highways from 130 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour) to 100 kmh during the day as a way of reducing nitrogen oxide created by vehicle engines.

The government has been forced to take action after a series of court rulings that blocked infrastructure and construction projects because of fears they would cause emissions that breach environmental rules. It is giving provincial authorities a year to work out ways to meet the emission reduction targets.

WHAT ARE FARMERS DOING?

Some 40,000 farmers gathered last week in the central Netherlands’ agricultural heartland to protest the government’s plans. Many arrived by tractor, snarling traffic around the country.

On Monday and into Tuesday, farmers again took their protests to crowded highways, driving slowly along the roads or stopping altogether. Some have dumped hay bales on roads, and small groups demonstrated at town and city halls, in some cases starting bonfires outside the buildings.

Some farmers set hay bales ablaze Tuesday alongside highways, while others gathered in towns and cities, including The Hague.

Farmers argue that they are being unfairly targeted as polluters while other industries, such as aviation, construction and transport, also are contributing to emissions and face less far-reaching rules. They also say the government is not giving them a clear picture of their futures amid the proposed reforms.

WHAT ARE THE NATURE AREAS THAT ARE THREATENED?

The government has published a map with reduction targets across the country based on proximity to areas designated as part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network of vulnerable and endangered plant and animal habitats. There are Natura 2000 sites across the 27 member states, covering 18% of the bloc’s land area and 8% of its marine territory.

On its website, the European Commission says conservation and sustainable use of Natura 200 areas is “largely centered on people working with nature rather than against it. However, Member States must ensure that the sites are managed in a sustainable manner, both ecologically and economically.”

Dutch farmers argue that other EU countries are not clamping down on the agricultural industry as hard as the Netherlands. During a protest Monday, a group of farmers at a Dutch Natura 2000 region near the German border put up flags and a “Welcome to Germany” sign to symbolically make it part of the neighboring country.

HOW IMPORTANT IS AGRICULTURE TO THE DUTCH ECONOMY?

Agriculture — from dairy farming to growing crops in fields and greenhouses — is a significant part of the Dutch economy.

According to a national farming lobby group, LTO, there are nearly 54,000 agricultural businesses in the Netherlands with exports totaling 94.5 billion euros in 2019.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Miss America 2018 Cara Mund poses for photographers on the 86th Floor Observation Deck of th...
Associated Press

Former Miss America Cara Mund plans to run for Congress

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Cara Mund, a former Miss America who gained attention by criticizing the organization near the end of her reign in 2018, plans to run for Congress in North Dakota as an independent. Mund announced her candidacy Saturday and said she would start gathering the 1,000 signatures she needs to get on […]
13 hours ago
Jan Longone, Curator of American Culinary History, holds up a book from the exhibit titled "The Old...
Associated Press

Janice Longone, chronicler of US culinary history, dies

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Janice Bluestein Longone, who is credited with collecting thousands of items chronicling the culinary history of the United States, including cookbooks, menus, advertisements and diaries, has died at age 89. Longone died Wednesday, according to Nie Family Funeral Home in Ann Arbor. The cause and location of death weren’t announced. […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Coroner: Smoke inhalation killed at least 5 of 10 in fire

NESCOPECK, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say at least half of the 10 people found dead after an early morning fire in northeastern Pennsylvania died of smoke inhalation. The Luzerne County coroner’s office said autopsies on the victims of the early Friday blaze in Nescopeck began Saturday. Examinations by Dr. Gary Ross were completed on three […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal

VIENNA (AP) — Top negotiators in renewed talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal indicated Sunday that they are optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement to impose limits on Tehran’s uranium enrichment. “We stand 5 minutes or 5 seconds from the finish line,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told reporters outside Vienna’s Palais […]
13 hours ago
This combination of Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 photos shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsb...
Associated Press

Florida prosecutor vows to fight Gov. DeSantis suspension

ST. PETERSURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida prosecutor vowed Sunday to fight his suspension from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis over his promise not to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion ban and support for gender transition treatments for minors. Andrew Warren, a Democrat suspended last week from his twice-elected post as state attorney in Hillsborough […]
13 hours ago
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, center, talks with residents that have been displaced by floodwater...
Associated Press

More storms forecasted for flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The National Weather Service extended a flood watch through Sunday evening for areas of eastern Kentucky ravaged by high water more than a week ago and said there’s a threat of thunderstorms in the region for much of the coming week. There’s a “persistent threat of thunderstorms” through Thursday that could […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
EXPLAINER: Why are Dutch farmers protesting over emissions?