The European Commission last week approved controversial plans for the Dutch government to forcibly buy out livestock farms as part of plans to cut nitrogen emissions, which has triggered a huge backlash from farmers and caused a wave of farmer-led protests across the country.
The Dutch need to reduce excess nitrogen levels, caused in part by decades of intensive farming, a problem that has led to courts blocking important construction projects until the issue is resolved.
The commission approval is key to the success of the plans, which envisage thousands of farms close to environmentally sensitive areas closing down and does not rule out forced sales.
Two schemes with a total budget of €1.47bn (about $2.5bn) will be used to compensate farmers for the voluntary closure of their holdings. About 3000 small and medium-sized livestock farms near environmentally sensitive areas will be eligible for the payments. The government plans to pay them 120% of the value of their businesses to stop. Other farms may also be eligible for a buy-out fee of up to 100%.
Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Competition for the European Commission, said in a statement that the two schemes approved would clear the way for the “voluntary closure” of farms responsible for major nitrogen emissions.
“The schemes will improve the environment conditions in those areas and will promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly production in the livestock sector, without unduly distorting competition,” she said.
Farmers who decide to close their holdings must guarantee they will not start up livestock farming operations elsewhere in the Netherlands or within the EU.
The 12 Dutch provinces will be responsible for putting the plan into action. Although, this may be complicated by the fact that pro-farmers party BBB became the biggest in all provinces at the March 15 vote.