Over the summer, farmers in the Netherlands vehemently protested against the government’s new environmental rules. Over multiple weeks, thousands of farmers burned hay bales and blocked roads and food distribution centers in an effort to draw attention to new EU rules that would paralyze the sector.
The government in The Hague attempts to follow EU guidelines by slashing nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030. Nitrous oxide and methane emissions are byproducts of livestock, for instance, when manure is deposed. The Netherlands – along with Denmark, Ireland and the Flanders region of Belgium – had exemptions on EU manure caps because of their small land areas, but that exemption is set to end for Dutch farmers. In practice, this means a considerable reduction in farm animals and putting numerous dairy farmers out of business.
Even with the prospect of the government buying them out, livestock farmers still aren’t on board with the EU’s plans. The prospect of a considerable reduction in farm animals would also endanger the country’s beloved traditional dairy products, such as Gouda and Edam cheeses. The farmers’ protests have now led to the resignation of Agriculture Minister Henk Staghouwer – who had been in office for less than a year – yet the government still remains steadfast in its decision to follow EU guidelines.
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