Cabinet under pressure from two directions as MPs debate nitrogen plans

Farmers' party BBB is the largest faction in all 12 provincial assemblies. Photo:
Farmers’ party BBB is the largest faction in all 12 provincial assemblies. Photo:

The government’s plans to cut back the agricultural sector in order to reduce nitrogen pollution are expected to come under pressure from opposition parties when parliament debates the measures later on Wednesday.

Ministers want to invest a total of €24 billion in measures designed to reduce nitrogen compound emissions by buying out farmers near conservation areas and supporting others who choose to downsize or adopt more environmentally friendly methods.

But there are competing demands to reform the plans from the farmers’ party BBB, which became the largest party in provincial government in the elections in March, and the centre-left parties GroenLinks and PvdA, who want the cabinet to step up its measures.

GroenLinks and PvdA both say they will vote against the plans if the government abandons its commitment to reduce nitrogen compound emissions by half by 2030.

‘If you’re spending billions you need to make sure that you achieve your goals at the end of the day: restoring nature and making the agriculture sector fit for the future,’ said GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver.

The BBB has called for the 2030 date, which was agreed in the coalition deal last January, to be pushed back to the deadline of 2035 cited in the nitrogen law that parliament passed in 2021.

The Christian Democrats (CDA), who are one of the four coalition parties, have said the 2030 deadline should be renegotiated, which prompted prime minister Mark Rutte to announce a pause in negotiations with the farming sector at least until July.

The provincial administrations have been given a deadline of July 1 to come up with detailed plans to reduce nitrogen compound emissions, but the rise of the BBB has changed the relationship between the provinces and The Hague.

On Tuesday farmers’ lobby organisation the LTO said it wanted to see the government’s outline plans within three weeks. ‘We need to have a firm document with a clear budget so we can start the transition of agriculture,’ chairman Sjaak van der Tak said.

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