The first reactions to the approval from Brussels for the plans to tackle the major emitters of nitrogen in livestock farming are cautiously positive. But there is also criticism.
With the approved plans, the peak loaders can be bought out quickly, so that emissions can be reduced in the short term. The peak loaders are responsible for an important part of the precipitation of nitrogen in protected nature areas. The buy-out plans concern about 3000 dairy farms, pig farms, veal calf farms and poultry farms.
‘Volunteering is crucial’
Farmers’ action group Agractie emphasizes that the approval only concerns the purchase of so-called peak loaders, but not about innovation, relocation or switching. “Remkes has explicitly stated that farmers should be given the choice of a good voluntary scheme with all these options.” The farmers’ association says “it is crucial that farmers are given these choices and not forced into the direction of stopping”, but is “generally positive about good arrangements for farmers who do want to stop”.
Agricultural organization LTO also considers “voluntary participation” essential and says it is important “that the arrangements are developed in such a way that they really offer voluntary quitters the opportunity to complete the business in a good way”. “It’s not just about what compensation farmers receive at the front for the purchase (and demolition) of their stables and production rights, but also about the tax settlement at the back.”
Others are less positive. “It is highly questionable whether the approval is sufficient to remove the Netherlands from the nitrogen lock. The question is whether there are enough ‘spontaneous’ stoppers,” says environmental group Mobilization for the Environment (MOB). The organization fears that the withdrawal of nature permits will be inevitable to get the Netherlands out of the nitrogen lock.
Farmers’ interest group Farmers Defense Force (FDF) says it has “no good word” about the plans and speaks of a “dead sparrow”. According to the interest group, the cabinet only wants to “kill farmers”. In addition, FDF wonders whether there is already a definition for peak loaders.
Free nitrogen space
The nitrogen space that is released is initially mainly used to help farmers who are without a permit through no fault of their own: the so-called PAS detectors. Agractie calls this “positive”. The remaining nitrogen space can be used to build houses and roads.
According to MOB, the nitrogen space released may not be used to legalize PAS detectors. “PAS detectors therefore have to fend for themselves by buying up nitrogen space from colleagues.”
Deputy of the province of Limburg, Geert Gabriëls (Nature, Environment and Heritage) hopes that the implementation of the regulations will be in order. “Our Limburg farmers will have to make choices and that is not always easy. Now this process can finally begin. Finally, after years, nitrogen reduction will take place through the voluntary schemes.”
Urgently needed, according to Gabriels. “For nature restoration, for the redesign of the rural area with good revenue models for farmers and for the long-term resumption of permits.”
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