Council of State scraps nature permits for low-emission barns
The Council of State canceled three dairy farmers’ nature permits for their low-emission barns. About 20 percent of dairy farmers have low-emission barns. It is not clear whether Wednesday’s ruling will have immediate consequences for them, NOS reports.
The ruling affects two types of low-emission barns used in the dairy sector- A1.13 and A1.28. It does not apply to other low-emission systems in this sector or the poultry and pig sectors.
“Two scientific studies show that nitrogen emissions from low-emission barns are probably higher than assumed in the regulations,” The Council ruled. “That means that dairy farmers with this type of barn can only receive a nature permit if an appropriate assessment shows that nature is not harmed.”
The ruling is a blow to the agriculture sector, which has to drastically reduce its nitrogen emissions. The government’s goal is to cut nitrogen emissions by half by 2030. Livestock farmers had hoped that low-emission barns would mean they didn't have to reduce their livestock.
Low-emission barns divide the animals’ urine and feces, feeding the uring through a trench to a cellar. The feces remains on the floor and must be regularly pushed away. Because the two do not mix, less ammonia is created and, therefore, fewer nitrogen emissions, in theory at least. Provinces have been issuing permits based on this theory for several years, allowing farmers to keep more livestock because their nitrogen emissions did not grow higher than they already were.
But scientific studies showed that in practice, low-emission barns only reduce nitrogen emissions if all the conditions are optimal. That includes that the animals get the right and right amount of food, that the floors are swept multiple times a day, and that the stable is well maintained. No one is checking those conditions, environmental organizations argued in court. If the conditions are not optimal, the difference in emissions with traditional stables is negligible.
After several other courts, the Council of State today also ruled in the environmental organizations’ favor. The ruling could set a precedent, as many similar lawsuits are currently ongoing.