Why the Dutch farmers’ revolt matters
They are fighting back against the green elite's campaign of immiseration.
‘Farming is a profession of hope’, said Canadian poet and writer Brian Brett. So when farmers use their tractors in anger, it shows just how desperate things have become. That appears to be the case in the Netherlands, where thousands of Dutch farmers and their supporters descended on the nation’s political capital, the Hague, last Saturday.
Tensions between the agricultural community and the Dutch government have been steadily rising over the past few years. Prime minister Mark Rutte is on a mission to cut nitrogen emissions in half by 2030, meaning that nitrogen pollution must be reduced by up to 70 per cent in some areas of the country. ‘Emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia have been too high in the Netherlands for many years’, the government says on its website. Listed among the government’s reasons for cutting back on nitrogen are of course the health impacts. But it is also motivated by the EU’s harsh Net Zero targets.
The Dutch government’s plan is to rein in the 3,000 ‘peak polluter’ businesses with the highest nitrogen output. These businesses, the vast majority of them farms, must take measures to reduce their nitrogen emissions. Unfortunately, the required target is just not feasible for many farms. Some would have to cut their livestock numbers by as much as 50 per cent, or significantly reduce the amount of fertiliser they use. This can only damage livelihoods. With the government playing hardball, it is feared that many farms will be forced to downsize or cease operations altogether.
The Dutch government claims to recognise that this will be a costly undertaking, and is offering packages for financial aid and compensation. However, this has been met with cynicism by many of those protesting, who see it as a cheap way for the government to buy up farmland in response to the Netherlands’ serious housing crisis.
With farms already closing, farmers have obviously had enough. And on Saturday – as on many previous occasions – they decided to deliver that message to their government in person. The protest may fall on deaf ears, however. Rutte certainly seems to be done talking – just a few days ago, a Dutch television presenter said that the prime minister refuses to appear on any television show if farmers are among the guests.
Rutte’s government tried to do all it could to hamper the farmers on Saturday, beginning with banning the participation of all but two ‘symbolic’ tractors in the protest. When more than two tractors showed up, the police were employed to turn the tractors and busloads of supporters back. Water cannons were also placed on standby, shipping containers were kept at the ready to block roads into the Hague, and the mayor even threatened to mobilise the army.
Still the farmers came to make their voices heard. An estimated 10,000 gathered in the Hague’s Zuiderpark, waving their inverted Dutch flags (a symbolic gesture representing the threat that nitrogen regulations pose to their livelihoods) and chanting their slogan: ‘No farmers, no food.’
The consequences of this battle are not just confined to the Netherlands. The Dutch are the second-largest exporters of agricultural products in the world, so Rutte’s nitrogen policy has the potential to become a global issue when it comes to the supply chain.
It is a rather confusing situation. The Dutch government is doing so much at the moment to encourage the bees and other insects that are responsible for pollinating around a third of the food we eat. They are putting turf on top of bus stops and planting wildflowers on verges, roundabouts and central reservations. ‘Insect hotels’ are appearing everywhere. Yet, at the same time, the Rutte government seems to be doing its utmost to crush those who bring our food from the fields to the shelves.
One thing is clear, however: the Dutch farmers’ revolt isn’t going away anytime soon.
John Lee Shaw is a freelance writer based in the Netherlands. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnLeeShaw.
Picture by: YouTube / demonstration_live.
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