Farm buyout scheme not yet successful
More than two years into the government's plan to buy out eligible farms to reduce nitrogen emissions, only 20 farmers have participated. This it out of at least 750 companies that were qualified for the scheme, according to the NOS.
Provinces blame the government for the mixed messages it has sent. For example, they say some terms of the agreement were unclear and promises of a more attractive deal made farmers hesitant to accept the government's first offer.
Although the scheme has been extended until December, provinces expect only a few dozen more voluntary buyouts in the coming months. Minister Christianne van der Wal said there were "lengthy processes" involved, but she hopes more farmers will still agree to the buyouts. "You don't do this from Monday to Tuesday," she said.
Overijssel agriculture deputy Gert Harm ten Bolscher was optimistic about the progress. "If you had told me two years ago that we could reach an agreement with six farmers, I would not have been satisfied. But because we encountered so many restrictions along the way, I am now satisfied with our performance," he told the NOS.
The scheme applies to farms nearby nature reserves. These farms are responsible for a large part of the nitrogen emissions of those areas. There are 350 million euros allotted to the scheme.
However, deputies have criticized the central government's handling of the situation. They refer to Van der Wal's statement to the Tweede Kamer that a new, "wildly attractive" deal was coming for farmers in the future. "The moment farmers hear that there will be a more attractive arrangement, they start to have doubts, because everyone naturally wants to stop at the right time and with the best conditions," said Limburg nitrogen deputy Gabriëls, according to the NOS.
Farmers also felt there was a lack of clarity from the Cabinet about specifics of the deal –– particularly the nitrogen precipitation they were responsible for and how many animals they could keep. The Ministry of Agriculture told the NOS it had always been straightforward about farm animal limits, but Brabant deputy Ronnes believes "the rules of the game were changed during the game."