The final “negotiations” between the Dutch farmers & the Dutch government have officially failed. The government didn’t budge and is going to proceed with its totalitarian land grab. New protests are expected this summer.
The Dutch farmers’ protests, which started in October 2019, have reached a new level of intensity after the government announced its plans to reduce agricultural pollution by halving the country’s livestock or cutting nitrogen output by 70%. The farmers feel that they are disproportionately impacted by the new carbon emissions reduction legislation and that they lack respect and support from the public, media, and politicians.
They also demand less government regulation, more pro-farmer policies, and more accountability for other polluting industries like Shell and Tata Steel.
The government’s emissions proposals are mandated by the EU law. The cabinet has allocated €25bn (£20bn) to slicing nitrogen emissions within the farming industry by 2030, and the targets for specific areas and provinces have been laid out in a color-coded map. By July 2022 the provincial governments must submit their ideas for hitting those goals – but a handful of provinces have hinted they will not play ball.
The farmers have been using their tractors to block roads, highways, airports, supermarkets, and government buildings across the country, causing traffic chaos and economic losses. They have also set fire to hay bales, dumped manure on highways, and staged demonstrations on politicians’ doorsteps. The protests have been described by Prime Minister Mark Rutte as “wilfully endangering others, damaging our infrastructure and threatening people who help with the clean-up”.
The farmers have received support from some right-wing populist parties and figures around the world, who see them as victims of a global conspiracy to destroy Western civilization and make way for mass immigration. Former President Donald Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen and Poland’s far-right populist government have all expressed their solidarity with the Dutch farmers.
However, many Dutch farmers are just trying to make a living and adapt to the changing environmental and economic conditions. They say they are willing to cooperate with the government if they are given a fair chance and enough time to transition to more sustainable practices. They also say they need biodiversity and nature for their crops and animals.
The government has said it is open to dialogue with the farmers, but it will not compromise on its legal obligations to protect nature and human health from excess nitrogen emissions. It has also warned that it will use force if necessary to stop the illegal actions of some protesters.
The conflict between the farmers and the government shows how messy and complex climate action can be, especially when it affects a powerful and traditional sector of society. As the deadline for the provincial plans approaches, more protests are expected this summer, with no clear resolution in sight.