Minister to let science decide if measure is harmful to cows amid continued farmers’protests

Animal farming is a major source of ammonia . Photo:

Agriculture minister Carola Schouten will let science have the last word in a conflict with farmers about temporarily reducing protein in animal feed as a way of cutting nitrogen-based pollution, broadcaster NOS reports.

If, as farmers claim, the reduction of protein is harmful to cows’ health, she will reconsider and make changes to the measure, the minister said in a letter to MPs. The new rule, which was approved by parliament just before the summer recess on July 3, is aimed at reducing overall nitrogen emissions to enable the construction sector to start working again.

As a result of a motion passed by MPs, Shouten will also put the measure plus an alternative plan proposed by farmers to the government’s environmental assessment agency Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving. The agency will study the effects on the environment.

The minister believes the idea that too much protein in animal feed ends up as nitrogen is ‘broadly supported by science’, but will now consult experts from the royal Dutch Society of animal veterinary science. The result of the consultation is expected at the end of August.

Farmers’ association LTO has  reacted favourably to the plan but said it would ‘only be happy’ if the farmer’s own alternative, which would see a smaller reduction of protein, was adopted. Radical Farmers Defence Group said the minister’s suggestion only served to placate farmers and said protests would continue.

On Friday a group of famers blockaded a distribution centre in Zwolle cutting off supplies to some 230 AH supermarkets.

Farmers’ protests against measures to cut nitrogen-based pollution have led to increasingly wide-spread demonstrations and some unsafe situations. A ban on the use of tractors has been widely ignored and a working visit to Zeeland by the minister earlier in the week had to be cut short when farmers congregated there to confront her.


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