The European Commission has confirmed its approval of the Dutch schemes to reduce nitrogen deposits in nature conservation areas, saying they will contribute to EU Green Deal objectives and are both appropriate and proportionate.
The schemes will compensate livestock farmers who voluntarily close their factory farms near Natura 2000 areas, which are, Brussels points out, defined in national legislation.
‘The schemes will improve the environment conditions in those areas and will promote more sustainable and environmentally friendly production in the livestock sector, without unduly distorting competition,’ said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
The schemes, which can run up to 27 February 2028, are open to small and medium-sized livestock farmers who close their operations, provided that their current nitrogen deposits exceed minimum levels.
The compensation of up to 120% of the value of the business will only be open to farmers who close down definitively and guarantee they will not start the same activity elsewhere in the Netherlands or within the EU.
In total, some 3,000 highly polluting farms located close to Natura 2000 areas could be shut down.
The 12 Dutch provinces will be responsible for putting the plan into action. This may be complicated by the fact that pro-farmers party BBB became the biggest in all provinces at the March 15 vote. The party opposes compulsory buyouts – which the government has mooted – and wants the deadline to cut emissions moved from 2030 to 2035.
Farmers organisations have so far reacted positively to the news from Brussels, while stressing that the buyouts must be voluntary. BBB has not yet responded.
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