Farmers could be paid 120% of their business value to quit

A farmers’ protest in central Amsterdam. Photo:

The cabinet is planning to pay farmers who operate close to environmentally-sensitive areas 120% of the value of their farms to shut down, if their operations are highly polluting.

Several thousand farmers will be offered the bonus from April next year and those who do not cooperate will face tougher environmental demands from then on, sources in The Hague have told broadcaster NOS.

The measure will be finalised on Friday, NOS said.

Farms and factories which exceed nitrogen pollution limits will then have to pay a levy over their emissions which will be similar to the current system for dealing with CO2, the sources said.

Farmers organisations have reacted to the plan with ‘cautious optimism’. ‘This is an attractive offer,’ farming lobby group LTO Nederland said, while militant farmers’ group Agratie said a voluntary system is ‘a good thing’.

Green group Mobilisation for the Environment (MOB) has also welcomed the plan, which it says will lead to a major reduction in nitrogen-based pollution.

Government nitrogen negotiator Johan Remkes said in October the government should close down 500 to 600 farms and other major polluters within a year to meet EU targets.

The cabinet needs to reduce emissions to comply with European regulations requiring it to protect conservation zones known as Natura 2000 areas.

But compulsory purchases are a red line for farmers, who have staged mass protests, vandalised infrastructure and picketed ministers’ houses for the last three years as they try to press the government to change course.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) said last month previous buyout schemes in the last 25 years had only cut the total head of cattle by a few percentage points.

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