By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
STROE, NETHERLANDS (Worthy News) – The Netherlands is soul searching after one of its largest farmers’ protests in recent history. Tens of thousands of farmers gathered in a village near the center of the Netherlands to rally against a government plan to curb nitrogen pollution that they say will kill the country’s world-renowned agriculture sector.
Traveling by tractor from all corners of the country, farmers were heading Wednesday to the village of Stroe, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) east of Amsterdam, the capital.
The farmers are furious about the government’s plan to curb harmful nitrogen compounds by up to 70 percent by 2030. That could lead to a 30 percent reduction in livestock.
And the farmers say they’re being blamed for pollution while the government reopens coal-fired power plants. The government claims those power plants are needed to overcome energy shortfalls because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But entrepreneur and right-wing legislator Wybren Ridley van Haga supports the farmers saying: “Today we turn our back on The Hague, [where the government meets]. With their made-up nitrogen problem, all these leftist vegetarians want to take away the farmers’ land. People who’ve never had a shovel in their hands or driven a tractor,” he said. “They try to talk nicely [in the governing parties] D’66 and VVD, but in the end, we have hunger.”
His words resonate with Jan and Natascha Hoving tending to their chickens on a farm in the town of Zeewolde. “I think it’s terrific that farmers are defending their interests. We should be proud. Dutch farmers are known for having the best agriculture techniques and exporting food worldwide,” Natascha Hoving said.
Her husband, farmer Jan Hoving, agrees. “You have to know where your food is coming from. When that’s no longer possible, everything’s lost.”
However, mycologist Rob Chrispijn says he has evidence of changing landscapes where mushrooms and crucial plants have died due to high-intensity farming. “We do as if the farmer feeds the people of the Netherlands. But he produces much more for the world market.”
The Netherlands might be a small country, but it’s one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters.
But critics say high-intensity farming of cows, pigs, and other animals has made it Europe’s leading emitter of harmful substances.
Farmers fear they’ll eventually be forced to look for other jobs or emigrate, ending businesses handed down for generations.
They’ve got the support of anti-Islam populist politician Geert Wilders. He believes the government wants to use agricultural land for migrant centers and homes.
“My message to the farmers is that many Dutch people support them, including my party and others. These awful plans concerning nitrogen must be canceled,” he said while briefly visiting the protestors amid tight security.
“I visited the farmer who allowed the protest on his land. The elderly father of the farmer told me: ‘My father had the farm from the 1940s, I in the 1960s, and my son from the 1980s. But my grandson might not be able to take over the farm because of the nitrogen plan.’ That’s not acceptable,” Wilders added.
The government says its plan to curb nitrogen pollution complies with rulings by the European Court of Justice and the country’s Council of State.
They claim that Dutch policies failed to address what they view as a longstanding problem. The question is whether the government will back down if more tractors take to the roads in protest.
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