In a further blow to Dutch farmers, the Dutch government is seeking to effectively close down 3,000 farms by purchasing them in order to comply with European emission standards. Nature and Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal announced that farmers would be offered compensation exceeding 100 percent of the farm's value. However, if voluntary measures prove insufficient, farmers may face forced buyouts.
"For agricultural entrepreneurs, there will be an attractive discontinuation scheme," stated van der Wal during parliamentary briefings. "For industrial peak polluters, we will adopt a customized approach and impose stricter permits. After a year, we will assess whether these measures have yielded satisfactory results."
The situation evolved from a research report released in 2021, which outlined the need for a 30 percent reduction in livestock by 2030 to achieve a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide and ammonia. Following the announcement earlier this year regarding the necessary reduction in livestock production, the sight of the Dutch flag displayed upside down became a symbol of discontent. Farmers also took to the streets in tractors to protest the measures.
Johan Remkes, former deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, emphasized in his report titled "What is Possible" that many farmers recognize the need for change. "There is no farmer who doesn't care about nature," Remkes wrote. "A dignified and proper transition process is essential, and perhaps most importantly, there must be genuine acknowledgment of the emotions and anger involved."
Farmers continue to stand up against the proposed closures, with more tractor protests taking place. One farmer had his tractor toppled by the police after refusing to leave, resulting in his arrest.
Geertjan Kloosterboer, a Dutch farmer, expressed uncertainty about the future, saying, "I don't know what to expect. For the sake of my own family, I hope one of my sons can continue farming if he wishes."
The Netherlands is a significant food producer, ranking as the second-largest exporter of agricultural commodities after the United States. Remarkably, they have achieved this while cutting fertilizer usage in half. However, the closure of 3,000 farms raises concerns about food security. Food prices in Europe have already surged following the Ukraine conflict, with flour prices in France increasing by over 30 percent. Overall, food prices in the European Union have risen by 16 percent, while energy prices have skyrocketed by 40 percent.
In contrast, other European countries are exploring a shift towards organic farming. Germany aims to have 30 percent of farmland under organic cultivation by 2030, with discussions focusing on eliminating synthetic nitrogen fertilization. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's President Rajapaksa abruptly banned synthetic fertilizer and pesticide imports in 2021, leading to a rapid switch to organic farming. However, the results were disastrous, with rice production declining by 20 percent in the first six months, and the country's key cash crop, tea, falling by 16 percent.
On average, organic production across all crops tends to have approximately 25 percent lower yields compared to conventional production.