Protests in the Netherlands Pit Farmers Against the Environment

Protests in the Netherlands Pit Farmers Against the Environment
A tractor with a sign reading “Our Farmers, Our Future” takes part in a blockade outside a supermarket distribution center in Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam, July 4, 2022 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

For more than a month, Dutch farmers have blocked motorways and food distribution centers across the country with tractors to demonstrate against the government’s planned measures to reduce ammonia pollution. Several of the protests have led to altercations with police, and politicians who support the policy have received death threats.

In the worst-case scenario, 11,000 Dutch livestock farmers—roughly a third of the country’s total—would be forced to quit. The Netherlands’ intensive animal-farming industry is a major polluter of ammonia, which is toxic to local plants and wildlife. Even farms that could stay might need to downsize.

The government is putting up 32 billion euros, 4 percent of GDP, to help farmers adapt to the new regulations and compensate those who can’t. That’s cold comfort to the farmers who would lose not just their business, but their way of life.

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