A farm near Ouderkerk in the Netherlands (icon image)
Guyt / imago images/perspective
The Dutch government is arguing with the farmers about environmental protection - and has now presented a comprehensive package of measures.
The government announced that livestock farms, which with their liquid manure pollute the soil the most with nitrogen, are to be urged to change.
A purchase offer will be made to the farms near nature reserves.
If they do not accept and do not reduce the nitrate pollution, forced expropriation cannot be ruled out.
The problem underlying the dispute is also acute in Germany: groundwater and soil are heavily polluted with nitrogen and other pollutants in places.
In Germany, every fifth groundwater body was recently rated as bad because the nitrate levels were too high.
Nitrate is a nitrogen compound.
If excess nitrogen is washed out of the soil by rain, it enters the groundwater as nitrate.
The result: In order to obtain drinking water from it, the water has to be treated at great expense.
Because nitrate can have harmful consequences, especially for babies.
It is also suspected of promoting the development of cancer.
The nitrogen also ends up in lakes, rivers and seas.
Like the Netherlands, the federal government is arguing with the EU about ways to reduce nitrate levels.
Farmers block highways and dump asbestos on the streets
In the Netherlands, following a ruling by the highest court, the government had decided to reduce nitrogen emissions by half by 2030.
According to government calculations, this could mean the end of 30 percent of livestock farms, because livestock farms and their liquid manure are the biggest cause of the problem.
The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters of agricultural products in the world.
According to the government statement, "from an ecological, economic and social point of view there is nothing left but to achieve a substantial reduction in nitrogen in the short term".
This presents the state and society with a large and complex task.
“I understand that we are putting a big question on the table for these entrepreneurs, which can lead to concerns about the future,” Minister for Nature and Nitrogen, Christianne van der Wal, is quoted as saying.
It reports to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The government would support the companies, but: »There is no better offer.«
In protest against the plans, farmers in the Netherlands had been protesting, sometimes violently, for weeks.
They had blocked highways, started fires and dumped manure, rubbish, but also asbestos on roads.
Supermarket warehouses were blocked and politicians threatened.
Since the country's nitrogen input is now well above the permitted limit values, other companies or large-scale projects are blocked.
According to a court ruling in November, construction projects can no longer be approved.