What does it take to touch off a revolt of the farmers? Environmental regulations that North Korea would find too onerous.
Dutch farmers angered by government plans that may require them to use less fertilizer and reduce livestock began a day of protests in the Netherlands on Monday by blocking supermarket distribution hubs in several cities.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France, have advised travellers to use public transport, rather than cars, to reach the airport, as farmers’ activist groups said on social media they planned to use tractors to block roads.
Several traffic jams were reported on highways in the east of the country and on ferry routes in the north, but none near Schiphol during the morning commute.
At the heart of the protest are targets introduced last month to reduce harmful nitrogen compounds by 2030, the latest attempt to tackle a problem that has plagued the country for years.
Reductions are necessary in emissions of nitrogen oxides from farm animal manure and from the use of ammonia in fertilizer, the government says, estimating a 30% reduction in the number of livestock is needed.
A 30% reduction is massive, would change life for everyone, not to mention the economy and food prices. But now this is a proper insurrection.
The protest comes just days after Dutch farmers sprayed several public buildings with manure after politicians voted on proposals to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants.
This plan could actually force farmers to reduce their livestock or even stop working altogether.
That can’t make the buildings dirtier, though it probably didn’t do anything good for the manure.
They do have a good point to make.
Police looked on but did not immediately take action Monday as some 25 tractors parked outside a distribution center for supermarket chain Albert Heijn in the town of Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam. Placards and banners affixed to the tractors read messages including, “Our farmers, our future.”
A tractor at another protest, in the northern town of Drachten, urged people to “think for a moment about what you want to eat without farmers.”
California growers have been putting out the same messages for a long time… to no avail.
The umbrella organization for supermarkets called on police to take action and warned of possible shortages on supermarket shelves.
“Blockades of distribution centers hurt the citizens of the Netherlands. Supermarkets do everything they can to keep the stores stocked, but if blockades continue, it could lead to people not being able to do their daily shopping,” the Central Bureau for Food Trade said in a statement.
There’ll be a whole lot more shortages when livestock have been cut by 30%. Where do the Dutch expect to get their food? Ukraine? Russia?
Farmers broke through a police barrier in front of the home of Nature and Nitrogen Minister Van der Wal-Zeggelink, where extra security was placed two weeks earlier. Hay was burnt, firecrackers were thrown at the house, and a police car was pushed aside and destroyed so the tractors could drive into the street, NRC writes. A slurry tanker was also emptied in the street.
Farmers also protested in the Netherlands’ political capital The Hague, where two cows were brought to join in the protests. Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the actions “unacceptable and out of proportion”.
Would one cow have been proportionate?