The Cabinet intervenes with farmers: “long-range measures” are on the horizon | Financial
This is evidenced by a letter from the new Minister of Agriculture Henk Stäger (CU) and Minister of Nature and Nitrogen Christian Van der Waal (VVD). Ministers wrote that the water quality in the Netherlands has deteriorated in recent years, due in part to the seepage of fertilizers into ground and surface waters. A “Nitrate Direction Action Program” has already been launched to change the tide, but the actions described in it appear to be insufficient.
That is why the European Commission threatens to intervene. The Netherlands has an exceptional status in Europe – the so-called exception – which means that more manure can be spread on the ground here than anywhere else in Europe. Brussels is threatening to put an end to it if the water quality does not improve quickly. The announcement of the letter follows an introduction to the responsible European Commissioners in Brussels. This is where the patience with Holland ended. Holland has been given homework for years. In order to impress the European Commission, the new government must now make plans for the future with stronger guarantees of change.
“At the moment, there is a major task in coming up with additional measures that will enable us to meet the water quality targets, and thus also provide the European Commission with a rationale for granting the exemption from the nitrate directive to the Netherlands,” according to Staguer and van der Waal.
LTO Nederland says it is unpleasantly surprising that the European Commission has not yet taken a step towards de-conformity. The farmers’ organization stresses that it is very important to have quick clarity on the exceptional situation of Dutch farmers and warns against panic in football.
“The agricultural sector and rural areas are facing an unprecedented transformation,” said LTO Chairman Sjaak van der Tak. The government is right to allocate many billions for this. This should give officials in Brussels confidence that we are serious about a more sustainable effort. Consistency and maintaining or improving earning capacity are of great importance to entrepreneurs.”
The coalition agreement for VVD, D66, CDA and CU already includes an “area-oriented approach” in which each region’s water quality (along with counties) will be checked, as well as nitrogen, biodiversity and soil condition. But for the European Commission, “there is a need for certainty that this integrated approach will in fact yield results and that the objective of the water quality mission will be achieved in time,” according to the ministers.
And what further measures they are taking now in the short term is still shrouded in mystery. But it is clear that a lot will change for farmers. For example, expansion (fewer animals), innovations, buy-in and resettlement of farmers are “important tools for achieving goals”.
natural manure production
It is also possible to ‘legal guarantee’ that planting is no longer done for certain reasons (since too much fertilizer leaching occurs). If the ranchers are bought or purchased, the rights to produce phosphate and nitrogen can also be withdrawn. “This will reduce livestock and with it the production of (phosphate and nitrogen from) animal manure will also decrease.”
According to Stagauer and van der Waal, the measures to be taken for the agricultural sector are “drastic”. But we also consider this necessary to avoid a situation in which the European Commission intervenes because the Netherlands is not fulfilling its obligations. In addition, the situation in which the Netherlands is not granted any exception is undesirable, as this will lead to a further deterioration in water quality, which means that we may have to take more stringent measures.”
Staguer and van der Waal hope to present an additional package of measures in Brussels “mid-February”. In doing so, they must bear in mind that the European Commission’s patience with the Netherlands is running out. For years now, the Netherlands has been tasked with homework and has to offer better guarantees of improvement.
LTO is convinced that by investing billions in investments in innovation, expansion, voluntary procurement and transition, the Netherlands will take a major step towards sustainability. “It is up to our ministers to convince the commission of this,” says Tineke de Vries, owner of the Soil and Water portfolio at LTO. “The Ministry should not give Brussels space to stop the restriction process or rush to impose extreme requirements on the nitrate directive work programme.”
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