You’ve heard about the carbon crisis. Now, we’re about to meet the nitrogen crisis.
In the Netherlands, a government plan to curb nitrogen emissions in the name of tackling climate change has met with fierce opposition from thousands of farmers.
“The protest in Stroe, 70 kilometres east of Amsterdam, follows the introduction last week of targets for reducing pollution by harmful nitrogen compounds in some areas by up to 70% by 2030 – the latest attempt to solve a problem that has plagued the country for years,” Legal Insurrection reported.
“Reductions are necessary in emissions of nitrogen oxides from farm animal manure and use of ammonia for fertilization, the government says.
“Nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere help form acid rain, while fertilizer washed into lakes can cause algal blooms that kill marine life.”
However, farmers say the government’s targets are arbitrary and put an undue burden on those who work the land.
The conflict stems from the Dutch government’s stringent cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Dutch governing coalition has mandated reductions in emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia of up to 70% in many areas of the country close to protected nature areas – even reaching as high as 95% in some places. The government has been forced to act after courts in recent years began blocking permits for infrastructure and housing projects because the country was missing its emissions targets.
“The government has earmarked an extra 24.3 billion euros ($25.6 billion) to finance agricultural reforms that will likely make many farmers drastically reduce their number of livestock or to get rid of them altogether,” the U.K. Daily Mail noted.
“The pollution reduction targets, which have to be achieved by provincial governments, have been opposed even by members of Prime Minister Mark Rutte´s own party and other members of his coalition. Provincial governments have been given a year to formulate plans to meet the targets.”
However, as Legal Insurrection noted, this presents serious problems for Dutch farmers — particularly given the squeeze in resources.
“With over 50,000 farmers and millions of animals occupying the Netherlands, many are now facing shutdowns. New regulations may force farmers to cut production and herd numbers by up to 30 percent to meet emission requirements by the state,” they noted.
“The government is slated to cut nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50 percent by 2030 and has already allocated €25 billion to assist in shifting farms to meet new requirements. The government in the past has called on farmers to use feed for their animals that contains less protein as a way of reducing ammonia emissions.”
Dutch farmers don’t see much hope.
“I don’t think I have a future in farming because we must reduce our cattle by 70 percent. With only 80 cows, this won’t be profitable, so we will have to close,” one farmer said.
But at least we’ll have less nitrogen.