Some 40 000 farmers in the Netherlands are taking a stand against the Dutch government’s ‘brutal’ nitrogen policy plans. The proposed legislation will ultimately force farmers to reduce the amount of fertilisers used on farms, and the number of cattle by approximately 30%. This triggered huge protest action by farmers across the country with thousands of tractors seen lining up to block roads.
According to the Dutch government, it wants to improve the quality of the air, land, and water by reducing nitrogen and ammonia emissions by 50% by 2030 but farmers are are unconvinced.
Farmers claim they are being unfairly singled out by the regulations. This, while other sectors, like aviation, building, and transportation, which also contribute to emissions, are subject to fewer restrictions. Farmers also claim that, in light of the reforms, they have not been given a clear picture of their prospects.
A dairy farmer, Jaap Zegwaard, said farmers were prepared to talk about how to reduce emissions but objected to the industry shouldering most of the blame. “Now the agricultural sector is dismissed as a major polluter and that is not right,” he told Aljazeera.
‘Protesting in a way never seen before’
All over the country tractors have been deployed to block supermarkets and businesses believed to emit more nitrogen oxide and nitrogen ammonia than farmers do.
The Netherlands is one of the top agricultural producers in the world. The nation exported fruit, flowers, vegetables, dairy products, and meat worth over $97 billion in 2020.
The farmers have also been blocking highways and setting bales of hay on fire in public spaces. According to farmer William Schoonhoven, they are far from done. “We are going to continue protesting, but in a way, the Netherlands has never seen before!” said Schoonhoven at a makeshift press conference in the town of Eerbeek on 8 July.
Protests on Wednesday, 6 July 2022, attracted extra attention after police in the country’s north opened fire on a 16-year-old farmer operating a tractor.
According to the German news outlet Deutsche Welle, the adolescent allegedly moved his tractor in the direction of the police. The teen was first detained on suspicion of attempted manslaughter before being freed without being charged. Police claim that no one was hurt in the event.
“Where is our prime minister? This country is on fire and the farmers are standing up to the government!” one farmer said while standing atop of bale of burning hay, according to Fox News.
Sri Lanka agriculture also threatened
The unrest, however, is not unique to the Netherlands, as farmers have also been protesting in Sri Lanka.
Faced with escalating protests, the EU will need to strike a balance between its food security and the environment. Failing to do so will not only impact the unrest, but disrupt the global supply chain and inflate prices in already-impacted regions of the world.
Any disruption to the global food supply chain will cause smaller economies to collapse, and the Sri Lankan crisis will be repeated on other continents. Oil prices are at an all-time high as a result of sanctions against Russia, and West Asian oil producers are making windfall profits by reducing production.
Three weeks ago, a group of farmers in Tissamaharama, a town in the country’s southern region in the Hambantota district, jeered at Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister Mahinda Amaraweera during his attendance at an agriculture-related activity, causing him to leave the area.
Farming brought to its knees
Amaraweera attended a session about agriculture at the Tissamaharama Divisional Secretariat. According to The Business Standard, when he arrived, a crowd of incensed people, largely farmers, gathered in front of the local government office and started a protest.
According to the report, when the minister tried to find out more, there was a commotion that forced him to leave the area. The agricultural industry in Sri Lanka has been severely impacted by the country’s economic collapse. The country’s rice output has been dealt a fatal blow as a result of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s total prohibition on the use of chemical fertilisers, which was enacted in April 2021.
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