EU to deal new blow to Dutch farmers by tightening fertilizer rules; Nitrogen protests continue
As farmers' protests against the Dutch Cabinet's nitrogen policy continue, the European Union is moving towards ending the Netherlands' exceptional position when it comes to spreading manure. From as early as next year, Dutch farmers may have to spread less manure on their land, sources close to the government confirmed to ANP after reports by NOS.
Brussels has been pushing for stricter treatment of Dutch farmers for some time. It is not without reason that two years ago, the EU granted the derogation only for two years instead of the usual four years, and it was subject to stricter conditions than before. Agriculture Minister Henk Staghouwe has warned farmers for some time that they should expect the derogation to be abolished. Negotiations are ongoing in Brussels, but according to insiders, the gradual phasing out of this exceptional position seems likely.
LTO Nederland, the organization for agriculture and horticulture in the Netherlands, said in a response that Dutch agricultural policy is "setback after setback" for farmers. "Loss of derogation is a black scenario for circular agriculture. It means that a smaller part of the total required soil fertilization may come from fertile animal manure and, therefore, greater dependence on artificial fertilizer and thus gas. This will cost approximately 10,000 to 20,000 euros extra for farmers without improving the environment. If the Ministry of Agriculture still wants to offer any future prospects, then derogation should really be arranged in Brussels."
In the meantime, the Cabinet and farmers are clashing about the nitrogen policy and the Cabinet's decision to appoint Johan Remkes as mediator. Several organizations, including Farmers Defense Force, Argactie, the DUtch Agricultural Youth Contact, and LTO Nederland, have indicated that they don't intend to speak to Remkes because the Cabinet is sticking to the goals of the nitrogen plan.
But the Cabinet does not intend to appoint a different mediator, Minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) said on Friday before the start of the Council of Ministers. As far as she is concerned, mediator Remkes will start his work next week. She believes all parties will eventually join the discussion. "I trust that LTO will come to the table."
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said earlier this week that he has "a lot of confidence" in Remkes as a mediator. Staghouwer also said he assumes the parties will come to talk. "I think this is the only way to have a good conversation and to look at the future of the agriculture sector. According to the Agriculture Minister, Remkes has a " great track record" and can "stand above the parties." Staghouwer said he was looking forward to the talks.
On Friday, farmers protested by blocking access to a Jumbo distribution center in Woerden, a waste processor in Wijster, and parking their tractors around the Zeeland provincial house.
The police announced that they arrested a 52-year-old man from Kootwijkerbroek on Wednesday for threatening Minister Van der Wal. During a recent farmers’ protest, the man hung a banner on his tractor listing the Minister's name after that of murdered Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh. He listed Van Gogh and Fortuyn’s dates of death after their names and put a cross and a question mark after Van der Wal’s name.
The authorities charged the man with threats and sedition. The police released him from custody. He will appear in court at a later date.
The family of 16-year-old Jouke Hospes, whose tractor got hit by a police bullet at a farmers’ protest in Heerenveen on Tuesday, also said they’ve decided to wait to file charges against the cop who fired the shot. According to the boy’s mother, investigators asked them to wait. They have a meeting with the family on Saturday.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times