News and Commentary

Dutch Farmers Spread Manure On Streets As New Emissions Rules Threaten To Close Down Livestock Farms
(Getty Images / Darrell Gulin)

Farmers in the Netherlands are blocking supermarket distribution centers with tractors and spreading manure outside of officials’ homes.

At the end of last month, the Dutch government unveiled a plan to slash 50% of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and ammonia by 2030, according to a report from ABC News. As the government acknowledged in a statement, “The honest message… is that not all farmers can continue their business.”

In response, roughly 40,000 farmers gathered to protest the plans, blocking traffic across the country as they drove slowly in their tractors. “Some have dumped hay bales on roads, and small groups demonstrated at town and city halls, in some cases starting bonfires outside the buildings,” ABC reported, noting that other farmers “set hay bales ablaze.”

Urine and dung produced by livestock are a source of ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. NASA satellites have linked agricultural regions to higher atmospheric ammonia concentrations, which lead to “poor air and water quality.”

On Monday, farmers continued their protests by blocking supermarket distribution networks, with fishermen blocking ports in a sign of solidarity, according to a report from German state-owned news outlet Deutsche Welle. Dutch government data show that the Netherlands’ policies could shutter 30% of livestock farms.

The Netherlands exported €94.5 billion — roughly $98.5 billion — of agricultural goods in 2019, according to a report from the nation’s agriculture ministry. A majority of the goods are shipped to other European countries.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the protests. “You can demonstrate, but in a civilized way,” he remarked at a NATO summit last week in Madrid, per the Associated Press. “So don’t block highways, don’t set off fireworks outside a minister’s house and spread manure and … scare two children, and endanger families.”

Indeed, protesters left manure on a street near the home of Christianne van der Wal, the minister leading the Netherlands’ anti-pollution efforts.

Farmers are condemning the nation’s new climate regulations. “We cannot invest. Our fathers, our uncles, cannot invest in the future. And so as young farmers we also have no prospect of … taking over a farm,” 23-year-old dairy farmer Marijn van Heun told Euronews.

“This is where the rules are made,” dairy farmer Jaap Zegwaard, who brought his tractor to a protest in The Hague, added to the outlet. “I was asked to come here and provide breakfast so we can show we are food producers, not pollution producers.”

In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled last week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants for the purpose of reducing coal usage, since the entity was not specifically granted that power by Congress.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme … A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”

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