The Netherlands has too much manure. So the Dutch government announced a 25 billion euro plan to greatly reduce the country’s livestock.
Earlier this week, a new coalition government unveiled the radical scheme to cut nitrogen pollution levels by buying out farmers. But the farmers aren’t happy about it. In the past, farmers have taken to the streets to protest new regulations and buyouts. Many farmers aren’t sure how they can switch to less intensive methods and fewer animals while still paying their debts.
“We don’t want the system to collapse,” said Marije Klever, a Utrecht dairy farmer, as reported by The Guardian. “I am a land owner, so a critical question is whether the government are allowed to push farmers out of the land. It can’t be The Hague telling farmers they must go, you need an agreement.”
The plan’s time frame stretches over 13 years and includes paying some farmers to relocate their farms or change industries altogether. Others will transition to different farming methods involving more land and fewer animals. At first, the program will be voluntary. But it won’t remain that way if too few farmers accept the compensation and exit farming. By the end of 13 years, the government expects to have reduced the Netherlands’ cow, pig and chicken population by about one-third. Right now, there are more than 100 million of the animals.
While the Netherlands is small, it’s Europe’s largest meat exporter. Livestock is more than four times as densely concentrated in the Netherlands as in the U.K. or France. A lot of pollution comes from all that animal manure. When mixed with animal urine, ammonia seeps into streams and lakes, carried by farm runoff. The excessive nitrogen in ammonia damages the natural habitat. “We can’t be the tiny country that feeds the world if we shit ourselves,” said MP Tjeerd de Groot, according to The Guardian.
Via The Guardian
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