Nitrogen targets achievable by targeted buying out of 5,000 farmers: report
The Cabinet can achieve its nitrogen goals with half the money set aside to tackle the crisis. By buying out 5,000 farmers that emit the most nitrogen and are located close to vulnerable nature areas for 13 billion euros, the Cabinet can solve this crisis in one fell swoop, NRC reports based on internal documents from the Ministry of Finance.
Finance officials and colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture calculated how to buy up farms to solve the nitrogen crisis most efficiently. They looked at livestock farms that emit the most nitrogen and whose animals cost the least money first.
According to the calculations, the Netherlands can achieve its nitrogen goal - that 74 percent of vulnerable Dutch nature can’t deteriorate due to nitrogen emissions by 2030 - by buying the 10 percent largest emitters from agriculture, around 5,000 farms. Then the other agricultural companies don’t have to make any adjustments.
If this plan envisaged by the Ministry of Finance becomes a reality, the poultry sector would be hit the hardest, losing half of its companies to government buyouts. A quarter of pig farms would be bought up. Few dairy farms are affected because buying them is relatively expensive because they own a great deal of land.
According to the Ministry’s calculations, buying out companies close to vulnerable nature reserves in Gelderland would very effectively reduce nitrogen emissions. But that means that “agriculture is completely bought out in large parts of the Gelderse Vallei.” There would also be very little room for farming in Oost-Brabant.
If the government chooses to spread the restructuring pain across the entire agriculture sector, it will have to buy 27 other farms for each of the 5,000 biggest emitters not bought out. That means that each of the 10 percent largest emitters emits 27 times more nitrogen than an average agricultural company.
Whether such buyouts will ever happen remains to be seen. Forced buyouts are an extremely sensitive topic in the Netherlands, with only the hint of the matter known to spark outrage and protests among farmers.
According to NRC, other attempts to voluntarily buy out farmers only proved how difficult it is. A buy-out scheme for pig farmers had 430 farmers sign up, but only 278 eventually stopped farming. And the nitrogen reduction was two-thirds lower than expected. Only a handful of farmers showed interest in a government scheme to buy out farmers who emit a lot of nitrogen near nature reserves, launched in November 2020. And not a single farmer has stopped their business in the nitrogen hotspots Noord-Brabant and Gelderland.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance confirmed to NRC that its officials are working on these figures. He stressed that it is still a work in progress, and the final version will be published around the summer.