Your five most frequently asked questions about nitrogen and farmers’ protests NOW

Farmers protested on Wednesday in Stroe, Gelderland, against the government’s plans to reduce nitrogen emissions. The nitrogen problems are accompanied by a lot of misinformation and raise questions among NU.nl readers. Do we keep enough to eat? And are the Germans really allowed to do so much more when it comes to nitrogen? These are the five most frequently asked questions.

1. Do we get enough to eat if farms in Holland stop?

The food produced by Dutch farms goes largely abroad: namely 70 per cent. Almost a third of the food is therefore intended for the Netherlands itself. So even if there are fewer farmers, or if they produce less food, there will be more than enough left over to supply the Netherlands with food.

At the same time, the Netherlands is already dependent on imports of food, such as dairy products and meat. It’s not so much about cartons of milk, but more about processed products such as biscuits and sausage, according to the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

In 2019, the PBL calculated that 1,800 square meters per Dutchman would be needed to grow enough food. The Netherlands is not big enough for that, so we will have to keep importing food with our current diet.

2. What happens if we do nothing about nitrogen precipitation?

You can answer this question in two ways. Failure to intervene not only has consequences for nature, but also has legal consequences. The Netherlands must comply with the Habitats Directive and other treaties that apply to all EU countries. The Habitats Directive lists hundreds of plant and animal species to be protected in Natura 2000 sites.

If we do not meet the requirements of those treaties, you as a country will be completely stuck. You can then no longer grant permits for the construction of houses, roads and industry. The court will repeatedly declare these permits to be in violation of laws and regulations. It’s already happening.

In Dutch nature, the soil is acidified after decades of nitrogen precipitation. As a result, nature from the dunes of Twente suffers from a growing shortage of lime. Nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium have been washed away as a result, which has caused many plants and animals to deteriorate.

3. Why is the Netherlands compared to our neighboring countries so strict to the farmers

The Netherlands is a frontrunner in Europe when it comes to nitrogen emissions. Emissions are four times higher than average. Nowhere are so many animals kept as in Holland. Flanders and Germany follow in second and third place.

Other countries must also comply with the Habitats Directive. Other treaties signed by the Netherlands also apply to all European countries. The situation here is only much more serious because we keep many animals on a small area and often next to nature reserves.

Our eastern neighbors have a much larger land where industry and agricultural land are not as close to nature reserves as here. Although there are also areas of concentration where action needs to be taken.

In Flanders, it was decided in February this year that forty businesses near nature reserves should close by 2050.

4. Why are farmers attacked earlier than Schiphol or polluting factories?

Agriculture is the first to be intervened in the new nitrogen supply, because almost half (46 percent) of all nitrogen in the Netherlands comes from agriculture. And those farms are often located near the Natura 2000 sites.

In addition, almost a third of the nitrogen deposition from abroad is blown across the border. Road traffic accounts for more than 6 percent, as do households. The rest – almost 10 percent – comes from aviation and shipping, industry and construction.

Although farmers account for a large share of nitrogen emissions, less nitrogen must be discharged quickly in all sectors. By 1 October, industry, transport and other sectors will also be involved.

5. Do the peasants obey the laws to demonstrate?

According to National Police Chief Willem Woelders, the basic principle remains that farmers are not allowed to drive on motorways with tractors. – Of course, we are also prepared for this throughout the country, he said on Wednesday NOS News† “Only tractors are driven en masse towards motorways.”

Police are addressing as many farmers as possible about this, Woelders says. “Some have actually stuck to it, but the number is so large that they have entered the motorways anyway. Then we consider: what can you do about it at that time? We will enforce where we can. But it is very limited in view of massiveness. “

After the government unveiled the nitrogen plans, the farmers went to the house of the responsible Minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen). She said her children “shook” at home. D66 has put forward proposals to criminalize unwanted and unannounced visits to politicians. At present, this is not a criminal offense.

Follow the latest developments of the farmers’ protest in our liveblog.

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