Dutch farmer protest talks fail to harvest breakthrough
Dutch farmers and the government failed to reach a deal on Friday on environmental plans that have sparked weeks of angry demonstrations.
Farmers have blocked roads with manure and set fires to protest against plans to reduce livestock and even close some farms to cut down on nitrogen emissions.
Talks on Friday produced “really too little”, said Sjaak van der Tak, head of the LTO, the main Dutch farming union, adding that the “ball is in the government’s court”.
The official overseeing the talks, Johan Remkes, said there was “grave crisis of confidence” between the farmers and the government of the Netherlands, which is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter after the United States.
Remkes, who recently led tortuous negotiations on forming a new coalition government, added that the differences “went deeper than nitrogen”.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte meanwhile apologised for a “nitrogen map” that showed where farms were most likely to close, saying it caused “great confusion”.
The Dutch government unveiled plans in June to cut nitrogen emissions by reducing the country’s herd of four million cows by nearly a third, and possibly shut some farms.
Nitrogen compounds produced by manure and fertiliser used in farming can contribute to climate change, and harm natural habitats.
The move followed a 2019 Dutch court ruling that the government was not doing enough on nitrogen, and that key house building and road projects that also produced the substance would be on hold until it did.
But farmers have reacted furiously, dumping manure and rubbish on roads and blocking supermarket warehouses to claim they are being victimised.
Their protests have drawn support from populists abroad, including former US president Donald Trump who hailed the Dutch farmers for fighting “climate tyranny”.