Dutch Government Imposes Ag Cutbacks, Farmers Revolt
July 14, 2022
Via a first-in-the-world regulatory push, “the tiny country that feeds the world,” is facing monumental alteration of its agricultural industry.
The Netherlands ranks second only to the United States in global agricultural exports, and is the European Union’s largest meat exporter. It accomplishes these feats on a land base that is approximately 270 times smaller than that of the U.S. For perspective, the European ag powerhouse is approximately one-third the size of the state of Wisconsin.
But sweeping environmental policy change threatens to upend that productivity, along with the lives and livelihoods of the farmers who make it happen. In December 2021, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency released a 13-year, 25-billion-euro plan to cut nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions by 50% by 2030.
The Netherlands currently has the highest density of livestock in Europe, with more than four times the food animal population of the UK or France.
The plan in its current state would reduce the Netherlands’ population of cattle, pigs, and poultry by roughly 30%. The potential methods of doing so include voluntary buy-outs, relocation, and even expropriation – forced sale of emission rights and even land itself to the state.
Dutch farmers are asking for more time and assistance in adopting emission-reducing technologies, rather than culling animals or shuttering farms altogether. Many also believe agriculture is being targeted disproportionately compared to other industries. And they view the threat of expropriation as a bad-faith act of government overreach, motivated by the government's desire to acquire high-priced Dutch farmland cheaply.
Farmers have taken their frustrations to the streets by blocking highways, storming a provincial assembly and driving a caravan of tractors into the heart of the country’s administrative and royal capitol city, The Hague. The protests have ensued for nearly three years, with a massive “freedom convoy” of trucks, tractors, and other farm implements currently rolling across the country.