Widespread manure fraud goes largely unpunished: report

Animal farming is a major source of ammonia . Photo: Depositphotos.com

An analysis of over 300 criminal inquiries into fraud involving the disposal of manure  has shown that farmers are largely getting away with the practice, the NRC reports.

The report, which is yet to be published but has been seen by the paper, was commissioned by environmental watchdog Strategische Milieukamer.

Dutch livestock farming produces some 75 billion kilos of manure a year, not all of which can be spread out on the land because of the large amounts of phosphates and nitrogen it contains.

To prevent contamination of the land and groundwater, part of the manure has to be stored or destroyed by the farmers which can cost tens of thousands of euros.

Farmers who bend the rules to save money stand very little chance of being prosecuted, the report said. The number of farmers who have actually been sentenced is unclear.

The report describes how some farmers spread the manure on the land and falsify papers to show they have destroyed it, or how they manipulate the emission systems.

The report, which is based on 15 years of legal cases, said a total of 185 million kilos of manure went missing in 21 of the cases under consideration. This allowed farmers to save tens of millions of euros, researchers calculated.

Rules around manure were tightened in 2018, the NRC said, particularly in Brabant, Gelderland and Overijssel where many of the livestock farms are located. The report concludes, however, that cooperation with the sector is insufficient and that there is a lack of controls. Of the 950,000 manure transports in 2019 only 821 were checked, researchers said.

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