Where Cabinet previously spoke of “starting a conversation on the farm about the new possibilities,” the tone is now very different. The new minister, Christian van der Wael, is no longer ruling out compulsory purchases for farmers.
She was still amicable in coalition agreement. “We will start a conversation on the farm to explore the possibilities together,” Cabinet said in a sweet message in mid-December.
When Van der Waal was asked in a debate with the House of Representatives on Thursday what she really meant by that sentence, she said it would certainly be difficult for farmers who are running their businesses from generation to generation, and who just want to keep going. Business. But she also asserts: “I want to tell an honest story. This means that this is not possible in every region.”
The government wants to encourage as many farmers as possible to voluntarily participate in reducing nitrogen emissions. But in the meantime, heavier terms, such as “confiscation” and “cannot escape”, are emerging from forced sale.
The new VVD minister takes a tougher tone. The Minister of Nature and Nitrogen expects that compulsory purchase of farmers cannot be avoided in several cases. “It’s a last resort, but at the same time it’s a reality we can’t always avoid. I really can’t rule it out,” she admits.
The liberal politician wants the bonus system to work in 2022 and 2023. The sooner you decide to stop, the higher the compensation. After that period it becomes less friendly. “The honest story is that you can’t escape expropriation, if voluntary isn’t there.”
overlooking the neighbors
In a few weeks, you will send a plan to the House of Representatives outlining how you intend to tackle the nitrogen problem. You’ll probably peek at the neighbors for it. Two weeks ago, the Flemish government announced that the most polluting cattle farms should be closed by 2025. That’s about sixty businesses. More than a hundred livestock farms have to significantly reduce nitrogen emissions. Nitrogen is a big problem in both Holland and Flanders, following a court ruling. Only in the Netherlands is this twice the number of farmers in Flanders.
In September, the attorney general suggested the government take permits from farmers who emit a lot of nitrogen near nature reserves. This was stated in the advice of the Ministry of Agriculture, which reviewed this site. When the permit is revoked, the cattle rancher would have to stop farming almost immediately. This action goes beyond confiscation, as it can take years for the farm to close. According to state attorney Hans Peslink, “confiscation will not lead to a quick result,” but “withdrawal of permits can.”
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