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Thousands of Dutch Farmers Protest Government’s Plan to Reign In Emissions

Published: June 22, 2022
Thousands of farmers on tractors gathered in central Netherlands on June 22, 2022, to protest the government's far-reaching plans to cut nitrogen emissions, which could see livestock reduced by almost a third. (Images: SEM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

In a scene reminiscent of the Freedom Convoy protests that rocked Canada’s capital of Ottawa earlier this year, Dutch Farmers, driving tractors, have clogged roadways in the Netherlands on their way to protest the government’s plan to reign in emissions associated with nitrogen oxide and ammonia which farmers say will reduce livestock in the country by almost a third. 

The protest, organized earlier this month, was prompted by nationwide emissions reduction targets published by the Dutch government that angered farmers who say their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of thousands of others who work in the agricultural sector, have been put at risk by the mandated reductions.

The Dutch government has said that the mandated reductions are part of an “unavoidable transition,” ABC News reported.  

The Dutch government has mandated the reduction of emissions by up to 70 percent in many places close to protected nature areas, and as high as 95 percent in other areas. 

The government says it has been forced to implement the mandates because of numerous court decisions denying permits for infrastructure and housing projects due to the country missing its emission reduction targets.  

Farmers gather during a protest against the government’s plan to curb nitrogen pollution by 70 percent by 2030, in Stroe, 70 kilometers east of Amsterdam on June 22, 2022. (Image: SEM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands converge

By the early afternoon of June 22, farmers numbering in the thousands arrived in the small farming village of Stroe, located approximately 45 miles east of Amsterdam, where a stage was set up, ready for speakers to address the protesters while children played on a giant inflatable pig. 

Farmers blew their horns as they drove with one vehicle sporting a banner reading, “What The Hague chooses is deeply sad for the farmer,” in Dutch. Another banner read, “We can no longer be stopped,” ABC News reported. 

The Netherland’s national infrastructure authority warned motorists to avoid the protest and delay travel as the slow moving convoy of tractors defied orders not to use highways as they made their way to the protest.

In The Hague, dozens of farmers and their supporters gathered for breakfast early Wednesday before making their way to the protest.

Jaap Zegwaard, one of the protesters, told ABC News, “This is where the rules are made. I was asked to come here and provide breakfast so we can show we are food producers, not pollution producers.”

The Dutch government has allocated 24.3 billion euros ($25.6 billion) to finance changes that are expected to force farmers to drastically reduce the number of livestock they raise or to get rid of them altogether. 

The plans are not enjoying support from all lawmakers including members of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s own party. Provincial governments have been given 12 months to draft plans to meet the mandated emission reductions. 

Tjeerd de Groot, a Dutch lawmaker, intended to attend the protest and speak with the farmers; however, he was advised against it by a government security agency.

He later tweeted, “Does the law of tractor apply in our country?”

Farming is a pillar of the Dutch economy worth 105 billion euros last year alone. However, some argue it comes at the cost of pollution despite efforts by local farmers to reduce emissions. 

Zegwaard told ABC News that farmers were ready to speak with lawmakers about strategies to reduce emissions and objects to farmers being blamed for missed targets.

“Now the agricultural sector is dismissed as a major polluter and that is not right,” he told ABC News.