by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:
In late November, the Dutch government set aside approximately $25 billion to begin buying farmland, whether the owners want to sell or not. “There is no better offer coming,” Dutch Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Waal told farmers. The government expects to purchase between 2000 and 3000 farms.
Government leaders claim that the radical restructuring of Dutch farming is necessary for the good of the environment. However, facts suggest that this has little to do with the environment and much to do with centralizing power.
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Arguments over farming regulations in the Netherlands have been raging for some time now.
In October 2019, the Raad von State (the Netherlands’ equivalent of the Supreme Court) ruled that the country’s previous system for regulating nitrogen emissions did not comply with EU regulations. Dutch politicians stated that the nation should withdraw permission for farmers to emit nitrogen, suggesting that Dutch farmers reduce their livestock numbers by half.
Of course, this was not popular. Farmers have bills to pay just like the rest of us, and telling a business owner that they have to cut production in half usually means the end of the business. Not surprisingly, Dutch farmers started protesting, causing more than 600 miles of traffic jams by clogging highways with their tractors.
Despite these loud protestations, the Dutch government has been plowing ahead.
While mainstream media has been keeping the storyline simple, that farmers refuse to see the big picture in terms of climate change, the reality is that Dutch farms have already reduced their nitrogen emissions by more than half over the past 30 years. Dutch farmers have proved themselves reasonable and willing to comply with achievable goals. However, the insistence by the EU that member nations reduce their nitrogen emissions by half again within seven years, by 2030, is a fantasy.
Advocates of the forced emissions reductions don’t see why these huge changes in rules for farmers seem so catastrophic. They seem to believe that current, conventional farms in the Netherlands can be forced into functional regenerative organic farms overnight. Now, I’m a big fan of organic, but I’m also a fan of reality. Anyone who wants to have an informed opinion of different agricultural options needs to listen to the farmers who actually manage the diverse regenerative farms that these armchair environmentalists at The Hague want to push everyone into.
What do the actual experts have to say?
Will Harris, who has been managing White Oak Pastures for decades, just gave a fantastic interview with Joe Rogan about what it takes to convert a conventional farm to a profitable organic one. It’s great, he loves it, but it was a labor of love that occurred over a large course of his lifetime.
Likewise, Joel Salatin, who has been managing Polyface Farm for decades, has written numerous books about his family’s experience converting their property with its denuded soil to a profitable farm. These farmers know what EU bureaucrats are asking of the Dutch farmers because they have actually done it. And they know that it takes decades to build the soil that makes regenerative agriculture possible.
It’s also worth noting that both Will Harris and Joel Salatin own their land. They have taxes but not mortgages. They also live in areas with abundant water. Out where I am, water can be a make-or-break scenario for farmers. I admire these men, who have done so much to publicize regenerative agriculture. I find them inspiring. But they’ve got advantages many would-be farmers don’t. It needs to be kept in mind that farming is like any other industry in that each location has its quirks and that top-down “solutions” mandated by far-off government agencies can rarely accommodate the diversity of issues farmers on the ground actually encounter.
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Nitrogen emissions are a problem.
Of course, people want their environments to be as clean as possible. But are other industries seeing the same draconian measures? Has any other industry in the Netherlands been asked to cut its output by half?
The transportation and construction industries in the Netherlands are facing a slew of new regulations. Many construction projects are being delayed. Construction companies will all have to update their equipment, and airports will be expected to electrify more, and more of their facilities. The transportation and construction industries are receiving subsidies to help comply with the new regulations, but there is still a great deal of disruption.
No one seems to address the wastefulness of scrapping tons of perfectly good, usable equipment. How this is supposed to be better for the environment is beyond me. I’m also not sure how importing large amounts of food from much farther away, probably using lots of fossil fuels in the transportation process, is supposed to be more environmentally friendly, either.
And, understandably, many in the Dutch business community are intensely frustrated by their government’s emissions mandates. In fact, almost one in four Dutch companies are planning to move abroad, according to a recent survey by the Amsterdam Centre for Business Innovation.
But farmers can’t just pick up and move.
Well, they can, but for a farmer to move is an act of desperation. It’s far more traumatic than renting a new office space in a new city. For farming families that have been on the same land for generations, their land is a part of their identity in a way that’s totally unique. Many Dutch farm families have been on their land for hundreds of years. For a farmer whose family held onto its lands during the German occupation in World War II, only to be forcibly bought out by his own government, is a kind of betrayal not comparable to anything else.
I see two reasons for the hammer to fall so hard on the Dutch farmers. The first is this attachment to the land. Farmers have always been known as an ornery bunch. Many of the efforts to “nudge” the behavior of first-world citizens hinge on the fact that the majority of the populations of these countries are strongly motivated by convenience and creature comforts. Not so with farmers.
I have run a small side operation selling pastured chickens. I have a lot of farmer friends. The farming lifestyle means you’re willing to head to the barns in a snowstorm or hurricane to check on animals in the middle of the night; willing to work outdoors in all kinds of weather because if it’s harvest time, it’s harvest time; and willing to get covered in animal feces because if you have livestock, it’s just going to happen at some point. I know this from experience. These people are not easy to push around.