The Dutch government unveiled targets Friday to slash emissions of nitrogen oxides to protect the environment, a plan that would cause major upheaval in the multibillion-dollar Dutch agricultural industry and has already angered to some farmers.
Calling it an “inevitable transition,” the government has ordered emission reductions of up to 70 percent in many places near protected natural areas and up to 95 percent elsewhere.
The ruling coalition has earmarked an additional 24.3 billion euros ($25.6 billion) to fund changes that are likely to see many farmers drastically reduce their herd numbers or get rid of them altogether.
Agriculture is a key sector in the Dutch economy, with exports worth nearly €105 billion last year. But it comes at a cost of producing polluting gases, even though farmers take steps to reduce emissions.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte admitted the plan would hit many farmers hard.
“Of course, it has enormous consequences. I get it, and it’s just terrible,” Rutte said. “And especially if they are family-owned businesses that they want to carry on with pride.”
Provincial governments in the Netherlands now have a year to come up with concrete plans to achieve the reductions outlined in the targets released on Friday.
LTO, an organization representing 35,000 farmers, called the goals “unrealistic.”
A group representing angry farmers has already called a demonstration in The Hague later this month to protest Friday’s proposals. In previous protests from the agricultural sector, hundreds of tractors blocked roads across the country and gathered in a park in The Hague.
Some farmers did not wait and drove their tractors in protests on Friday night, including a group that parked on the street where the government minister responsible for nitrogen policy lives, local media reported. The national broadcaster NOS reported that the minister, Christianne van der Wal, left her house to talk to the farmers.
The government has been forced to act in part because European Union emissions guidelines are being flouted across the country, prompting courts to block construction and infrastructure projects in recent years because they would exacerbate the problem.
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