Dutch farmers face calls to cut livestock by 30% to help protect the planet

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Dutch farmers are facing calls to cut animal production by almost a third. The proposal is in response to the current “nitrogen crisis” facing the country, including concerns over ammonia pollution.

IIs nitrogen dangerous?

Nitrogen is the most abundant element in our atmosphere – it makes up about 78 percent of the atmosphere, according to NASA. It’s essential to life, but too much can damage the ecosystem.

Excess nitrogen can seep into groundwater sources or enter the oceans through agricultural runoff. This can lead to algae blooms, which deplete oxygen in the water and can create aquatic dead spots. Dead zones generally cannot support life of any kind.

Ammonia is made up of nitrogen and hydrogen. At high concentrations, ammonia can cause respiratory problems, dermatitis, eye irritation and, in severe cases, blindness or death.

What is the nitrogen crisis?

In 2019, the Council of State – the highest Dutch administrative court – ruled that the government was in violation of EU law, declaring that the country’s efforts to reduce excess nitrogen in vulnerable natural areas were insufficient. .

Up to 18,000 infrastructure and construction projects have been halted in an attempt to reduce emissions. The government also reduced daytime speed limits to 100 km per hour (62 mi) on highways.

But according to the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, animal husbandry and manure applications are the main culprits of nitrogen oxides and ammonia pollution.

This is important given the number of land animals raised for food in the country. The Netherlands has more than 100 million chickens, 12 million pigs, four million cows and 600,000 goats, according to Dutch News. It is also the EU’s largest meat exporter.

Proposals

Farmers may have to reduce the number of dairy cows, pigs and poultry. Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission.

The Ministry of Finance and Agriculture has released two proposals to reduce the herd by 30 percent. According to The Guardian, it is one of the “most radical plans of its kind in Europe”.

Both proposals use buyback programs to reduce the number of animals – including dairy cows, pigs and poultry. One proposal also subsidizes the sustainable management of land and livestock buildings, while the other focuses on price incentives, such as a tax on ammonia emissions.

“We are a relatively small country with a lot of people, industry, transport and agriculture, so we are reaching the limits of what nature can take,” said Rudi Buis, spokesperson for the ministry of ‘Agriculture. The Guardian. “It is very urgent for us to tackle the problem of nitrogen compounds. This means that in the near future choices have to be made.

Response from the farming community

The proposals have drawn criticism from members of the farming community. The Farmer’s Defense Force (FDF), which has nearly 60,000 members in its Facebook group, was created to help farmers who are victims of “attacks from environmental extremists”.

On its website, FDF describes the nitrogen reduction plans as “disgusting”. In July, the FDF and the agricultural group Agractie organized demonstrations in several regions of the Netherlands.

Some protests have seen farmers fill the roads with hundreds of tractors.

“The snow is not blackened by agricultural activities, the air is not poisoned by heavy metals by agricultural activities. You won’t find an increase in cancer rates around the farms, ”FDF writes on its website. “The air was clean during the closures – when the farmer plowed and industry and air traffic practically came to a halt.”

The groups are planning more protests in the coming weeks.

“Go in the right direction”

Meanwhile, other groups pushed for more to be done to protect the planet.

The coalition party D66 had previously proposed to reduce the number of cattle in the Netherlands by 50 percent.

D66 parliamentarian Tjeerd de Groot spoke with RTL Nieuws on the issue in 2019.

“[Seventy] percent of the Dutch nitrogen emissions come from agriculture, a large part of which comes from intensive livestock farming. It’s huge, ”said de Groot, according to the NL time.

“At the same time, the contribution of intensive livestock farming to our own economy is not even one percent. The ratio is completely absent.

Bram van Liere, from the environmental organization Friends of the Earth Netherlands, applauded the decision.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” van Liere told The Guardian. “We would do more to buy back farmers and help them switch to sustainable agriculture. “


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