The protests of the farmers of recent days have attracted a great deal of attention and raise all sorts of questions. We answer four questions that readers most often asked us when farmers blocked distribution centers for supermarkets, a logistics company, a bridge and a lock with their tractors:
Why are farmers blocking distribution centers?
Farmers have long protested against the government’s nitrogen plans, which means that not all farmers can continue with their business. In recent days, they would show that without them, the shelves of supermarkets are empty. And that if their businesses are to disappear, it will affect everyone. †No farmers, no food“, say activists, and that slogan can be read on banners and tractors.
“It is, of course, a very strong argument, it touches on our deepest fears: that if the government goes through with these plans, we may run out of food,” said Jeroen Candel, associate professor of food and agricultural policy (Wageningen University) in the podcast. to make a long story short from NOS on 3.
Will the food supply be in trouble if agriculture stops?
No, experts say. If the nitrogen plans come true and there are fewer livestock (now there are about 3.8 million cows and 11.4 million pigs in our country), consumers will hardly notice it. The majority of these millions of animals are exported. About 40 percent of the meat is now sold within the Netherlands, 60 percent is for export.
A reduction in livestock of about 30 percent, which the cabinet is aiming for, “will not have the big effect” on our food supply, says Roel Jongeneel, assistant professor of agricultural economics (Wageningen University). “I expect exports to fall slightly and prices to rise slightly.”
Laurens Sloot, specially appointed professor of retail entrepreneurship (University of Groningen), also does not expect empty shelves if the livestock population becomes smaller and there are fewer livestock farmers. “If you stop farming all over Europe, then yes. But phasing out some meat and milk in the Netherlands will not lead to empty shelves.”
The food supply is mainly threatened by climate change and loss of biodiversity, says Jeroen Candel. “So it is very important that we now accelerate the sustainability of food production.”
Today, there are empty supermarket shelves, especially those for fresh produce. Due to the blockades, food could not be driven out of the distribution centers.
What do farmers see as a possible solution?
Farmers are strongly opposed to the cabinet plans and fear for their survival. They even suggest other, less drastic changes.
Last year, the Agricultural and Horticultural Organization (LTO), which has around 35,000 members, presented a plan with Bouwend Nederland, VNO-NCW, MKB Nederland, Natuurmonumenten and Natuur en Milieu. This should achieve a “sustainable balance” between ecology and economics. The problem must be solved locally, where farmers participate rather than being “forced from above”, it says.
LTO requested financial support for “innovation, nature-inclusive agriculture, agricultural nature management, such as voluntary relocation to future-proof sites or voluntary cessation.” That plan had not yet been calculated and legally tested.
In response to the appointment of Johan Remkes as broker, LTO said they should be able to discuss the “real pain points” with him. “That is, about the goals, the timeline, and the way in which reductions can be achieved.”
Other farmers want the nitrogen plans completely dropped:
Who are the blocking farmers and who controls them?
They are members of the radical Farmers Defense Force (FDF), the farmers’ action group Agractie, but also all sorts of other farmers. It is not known how many farmers are demonstrating and blocking. The police do not keep track of this. “We focus on public order and criminal acts,” a spokesman said.
In any case, ‘professional protesters’ have joined the peasants, reported news hour last week. According to National Police Chief Willem Woelders, these include those who protested against the corona measures during the pandemic, and far-right activists.
Activists communicate with each other in all kinds of app groups. Who organizes the blockades is not public, but the farmers’ action groups announced them in advance. For example, the FDF leader spoke on Sunday about an upcoming ‘mega protest’. “The turnout will be very large, but of course the Farmers Defense Force does not organize anything,” said Mark van den Oever.
See below an explanation we made earlier about the nitrogen crisis and measures against it:
What is nitrogen and why is it a problem?