Netherlands' failure to fight manure fraud influenced change in fertilizer policy
Last week, it was announced that Dutch farmers are losing their privilege to spread more manure on their fields than farmers in other EU countries. Sources in The Hague and Brussels have told the NOS that the Netherlands' failure to fight manure fraud is part of the reason.
Due to the Netherlands' small territory and poor groundwater quality, the European Union has allowed Dutch farmers to use extra manure as fertilizer. Usually, EU law dictates that farmers are not allowed to spread more than 170 kilograms of nitrogen from animal manure per hectare of land, according to the NOS. But now, this exception is being phased out within the next three years.
The Netherlands has not fully followed through on the promises then Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten made to Brussels in 2020, including stricter control on so-called manure fraud. This would involve additional checks in regions disposed to manure fraud, in order to make sure farmers were not exceeding the allowed amounts of manure fertilizer.
But the number of these checks has actually decreased since 2020, according to the NOS. A promised sanctions policy against manure fraud also has not materialized. For example, in De Peel –– one of the regions with high manure fraud –– the number of companies that were inspected decreased from 1,000 in 2018 to only 650 in 2021. The number of checks also decreased in Twente, although they remained the same in the Veluwe.
Although the responsible ministry blamed the decrease on the coronavirus pandemic, enough inspectors were in fact available, according to the NOS. It is partially because of these failures that Dutch farmers will soon have to operate under the same rules as their other EU counterparts when it comes to spreading manure.
However, Brussels has always seen the exception as temporary, the NOS reports.
"When I'm in Brussels and ask for any kind of leniency or indulgence, in whatever area, all I get in return is, 'Go do your homework,'" said Nitrogen and Nature Minister Christianne van der Wal.