Farmers face intimidation when switching to more sustainable methods, minister claims
Farmers who are considering a switch to more environmentally-friendly forms of agriculture are being intimidated and threatened, causing them to delay their decision to make changes, said Christianne van der Wal, the minister in charge of the Cabinet’s environment and nitrogen emissions policy. After the latest round of meetings led by mediator Johan Remkes on Monday, Van der Waal said she will raise the issue with her colleagues at the Ministry of Justice and Security, which oversees the police department and the Public Prosecution Service.
During a conversation with representatives from the country’s municipalities and provinces, Van der Wal again heard that farmers do not dare to participate in making agriculture more sustainable due to intimidation. She had previously heard similar stories during a working visit. "It is bizarre that this is happening," Van der Wal told reporters.
Farmers sometimes do not even dare to participate in discussions with provinces and municipalities where, for example, the new approach to reduce nitrogen emissions is being discussed, she claimed. Those considerate farmers then have to deal with "activist-minded farmers," Van der Wal learned during the conversation.
The government wants to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030 because of the rapid decline of nature and the environment. The plans have met fierce resistance from some of the farmers. Van der Wal herself was intimidated when farmers gathered to protest in front of her home.
Previously, farmers who dared to enter into discussions with ministers or MPs had already faced intimidation. Also, farmers dumped waste, including asbestos, on Dutch highways. Contractors who were called in to clean that up also had to deal with threatening phone calls.
It is "inevitable" that the nitrogen emissions problem will be tackled, said Van der Wal. The issue has remained on the table for decades. "We never really dared to press ahead, but that moment is now," she said after consultations with provinces and municipalities.
Reporting by ANP