One thing must be given to the government, say the farmers: The politicians have succeeded fantastically with their nitrogen plans to promote the mutual unity among the farmers. “The cabinet plan is so crazy that all our sections are reunited,” says farmer Teun de Jong from the Frisian Sint Annaparochie.
The plans evoked the same feelings at the presentation as those almost three years ago, when the Remkes committee concluded that polluting livestock farms should be bought out: anger, misunderstanding, frustration and aggression.
But where the farmers after the first feelings split in the Farmers Defense Force radicalism and the desire for political consultation of the then chairman Marc Calon of the agricultural organization LTO Nederland, with the moderate organization Agractie in the middle, the largest farmers’ organizations have now found each other again. “We draw one line of maximum resistance,” said foreman Mark van den Oever of the Farmers Defense Force. “Nobody supports this policy.” There is great collegiality, says dairy farmer Erik Luiten from Aalten in Gelderland, board member of Agractie. “Everything is connected now because the sector as a whole is threatened.”
Agracy wants ‘worthy protest’
Wednesday’s action day will not be held in The Hague, as Agractie had announced, but on Veluwe, in the countryside in the village of Stroe near Barneveld. It should not be a day when farmers in crowded cities and on motorways confront the police with their tractors and are accompanied by “inferior” and “professional protesters”, but a “dignified” and “massive” protest showing that “Holland” is The Hague policy ‘turns its back’, as the leaders of the action put it.
The day at Veluwe was to be a ‘signal’, but also a ‘dress rehearsal for a stream of actions’ throughout the country. “Because we can not accept this,” sheep breeder Bart Kemp, one of Agracie’s chairmen, said in a vlog.
In the coming weeks, many local agricultural groups will campaign throughout the country of the kind that could also be seen in recent weeks: a visit to the responsible Minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen, VVD) in her home in Wierden in Gelderland (NL). “an excellent act” according to Mark van den Oever, but according to LTO chairman Sjaak van der Tak “they should not do this”), or blocking a railway line in Achterhoek – with the explanation that a polluting diesel train can not pass through a beautiful nature reserve must run.
Also read: Peasant resistance: how intimidation and radical actions blocked the nitrogen negotiations
The agreement is that no matter how harsh the actions are, they should preferably appear sympathetic, otherwise the public discussion will move from the nitrogen plans to the question of which method of action is allowed or not. “It would be a pity if those actions were abused to not talk about the business itself,” says farmer Teun de Jong. Milk producer Erik Luiten, board member of Agractie: “What we do not want is to antagonize the citizens against us.”
What we do not want is to antagonize the civilians against us
According to the farmers, the nitrogen plans are so ridiculous that they hope that the citizens will also finally start to see that there is no sense. “Citizens are taking action too!” is a slogan from Agractie. President Bart Kemp calls for “massive outrage”: by visiting the demonstration in Veluwe, by hanging banners and flags, by keeping supermarkets and local shops closed “out of solidarity”. The biggest challenge: to let the spark of resistance jump from farmers to citizens, so that politics in the end can do nothing but brush the plans off the table.
The time is ripe for that, says dairy farmer Wim Bonestroo from Doornspijk in Gelderland. Due to the war in Ukraine and inflation, citizens are slowly beginning to realize how cheap food has been for a long time. “Food is taken for granted, buying it is automatic.”
Bonestroo, owner of a mega barn with 330 dairy cows and an ice farm, launched the campaign to visit Minister Van der Wal at home with a number of farmers from his own group. He was joined by another local activist group, Voll Gass, who made the visit a little more grim than he had intended. Not that Bonestroo regrets it. ‘The minister’s children appear to have shaken the sofa. It will actually not feel good. But we have been shaking on the couch for three years waiting for the battle. Many companies will soon be leaving, while in the Netherlands we work much more efficiently, environmentally consciously and innovatively than companies abroad. We even have a fertilizer tank that produces electricity. How circular do you want it to be? ”
Do we want this?
There could well be a ‘tipping point’ in public opinion and in politics, says milk producer Erik Luiten from Agractie. “So far, the plans have been quite abstract. Now everyone sees that the outer area is being made too empty. People are starting to think: is this really what we want? In addition, the plans will affect the wallet of any Dutchman. Buying out farmers will cost a lot of money, and groceries will also be more expensive if we have to import products, because that is the consequence of this policy. ”
We protect species that were not even there at all
According to the farmers, the government’s unreasonableness is also reflected in the unwillingness to deviate from the plans that were presented at the time for the Natura 2000 sites, which they believe should not be protected so strictly. “The biggest problem is that the Netherlands once presented overly ambitious plans for those areas in Brussels,” says farmer Teun de Jong.
Also read: Nitrogen reduction means a radical conversion of agricultural land
In addition to the question of whether all animals and plants in the protected natural areas really suffer so much from the nitrogen from agriculture – and from other sectors such as aviation, car traffic and industry – many farmers question the importance of a particular protected nature. “It protects species that were once not there at all, but which have emerged because farmers have cleared wastelands. For example, heathlands, which we will now preserve at all costs. ” That nature was the result of much smaller farmers.
LTO Nederland is disappointed that the government “did nothing” with a proposal made a year ago together with employers, nature organizations, employers and builders, to reduce nitrogen emissions by 40 percent by 2030. “That plan had support and was also much cheaper, said a spokesman. “The new cabinet places too much emphasis on buying up farmers. Recently, the cold calculation imposed on farmers was added. Then one ignores the proposals made by the sector itself, and one puts the provinces in a pinch. ”
The lack of consultation – it also disturbs many farmers. “If you reach out your hand and it still is not accepted, that hand changes to a raised middle finger,” says Erik Luiten of Agractie. “Then people say, ‘I’m not participating anymore.’ It also feeds the farmers’ distrust that the nitrogen plans are not so much aimed at restoring nature, but at driving the farmers out. Mark van de Oever of the Framers Defense Force: “The people of The Hague want people here to eat only plant-based food from the factory, and they want to build houses in the space left by the peasants.”