Dutch farmers group calls off "hardest demonstrations" in goodwill gesture to Cabinet
Farmers Defense Force is suspending its "hardest demonstrations" for the time being "out of goodwill" to the Cabinet. The organization's chair, Mark van den Oever, says the group is doing this as a "first step" in the hope that the government will change its position and opt for other plans to reduce nitrogen emissions.
The group will continue to hang inverted Dutch flags on its own farms. According to Van den Oever, more public-friendly actions will also continue, such as protests planned at the Vuelta a España cycling race, which begins next week in the Netherlands.
In a video message, the FDF chair refers to a report by Han Lindeboom, a professor who has previously contradicted government nitrogen emissions estimates. According to De Telegraaf, the report states that drastic reductions in nitrogen are also possible if investments are made to refine technologies which have recently become available that could eliminate the need to reduce livestock figures. "The report is something for which we can all make good progress," says Van den Oever.
Earlier this month, Van den Oever announced that FDF would organize the group's "hardest demonstrations ever." He spoke about escalation, and vowed to come up with something special after the action group was left completely dissatisfied following the first consultation between farmers' organizations and the Cabinet. The meeting was led by nitrogen policy mediator Johan Remkes late last week.
Bart Kemp of Agractie would not respond directly to the latest statements by Van den Oever. "Raising the position of the farmers is still urgently needed," said the leader of the farmers' group. Like FDF, he says more mild demonstrations will continue. Agractie also announced on Wednesday that it would protest during the Vuelta. Kemp still expects "serious rapprochement from the Cabinet on crucial points" in order for confidence to be restored, allowing more substantive talks to take place.
A spokesperson for LTO Nederland reports that what other clubs decide to do "is up to them." Furthermore, the organization also does not want to respond to the statement from the FDF.
The smaller association for organic farmers, Biohuis, applauds the suspension of FDF's harsher demonstrations. Treasurer Douwe Monsma says, "We are interested in negotiating and not in campaigning. We advocate playful actions, but nothing which can endanger people." Monsma finds it difficult to say whether hanging Dutch flags upside-down along the Vuelta route should be considered a "playful" demonstration.
"The flag is, of course, a symbol for the Netherlands. People die for that flag. Then it might not be so honorable to use it for this kind of protest."
Reporting by ANP